25 June 2014

Yesterday, on a flying visit to London, Gail and I attended an event in the House of Commons. The point of discussion was skills development, something that has been discussed a great deal in the press over the last year or so. I was interested to hear more about careers colleges, the first of which has already opened in Oldham, and their potential. Their aim is to align education with the needs of real businesses and provide young people with vocational training.

houseofcommonsWith employers complaining of a skills gap and describing school and university leavers as ‘unprepared for work’ the concept is a step in the right direction. If they get the right employers on board and focus on engaging and inspiring kids, they might be able to make a real impact.

Some people have suggested that Britain doesn’t produce technical talent, but I would argue the opposite. I think we create some of the greatest technical people in the world – just not enough of them. If careers colleges can get in there earlier and create the right kind of skills in people coming out of school, the possibilities for inspiring future generations are promising.

However, I don’t think we should miss a trick here by not looking younger. Kids are sponges when it comes to learning new things, but they don’t stay kids for long. We’ve got a responsibility to be training up the next generation. The great thing about things like coding is that it’s creative; it’s easy to have a go and try it out, like piecing together Lego blocks or building Scalextric. So why aren’t we teaching children at three or four years old? We know digital is going to play an increasingly bigger part in life – especially in their lives as technology progresses further.

Ultimately, life is about learning. It never stops, and if you think you’ve got nothing more to learn then you’ve probably got nothing more to give either. Do businesses have a part to play in educating people? I think they do, and not only by interacting with schools, but also by helping their own employees to develop and learn. I think you could even go as far as to say that it’s an employer’s responsibility to make sure that the people who work for them are continuously developing. Otherwise, are they getting enough from their job to keep them engaged?

What do you think? Will better alignment between schools, the government and businesses result in a stronger, more skilled talent pool?

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