One of the privileges of working in the college sector is seeing the impact that it has on students, helping them to go further and transforming their lives through learning.
Education is a lifelong process that underpins the success of individuals, communities, employers and the economy. How education can be geared towards employability skills is a pressing question, particularly given current global, national and local challenges.
Our city needs citizens who keep pace with changing workplace and skills needs. But employers in some sectors are struggling to recruit staff with the talent and skills they need, according to the latest CBI/Pearson Education and Skills Survey 2017.
Leaving the European Union adds a sense of urgency, as exiting will require the country to become more self-sufficient. There are also other longer-term trends – for example the impact of artificial intelligence and automation on employment in future.
At the heart of all of this is the need for those within the education system, employers and the government to work together, foster mutual understanding and take a long-term view so that the curriculum from early years through to adulthood prepares learners with the skills they need for life as well as work.
Educators should continue to inspire learners in the skills that employers need, for example, science, technology, engineering and maths, and explore what the careers of the future will look like as well as providing young people with opportunities to develop communication, team work and problem-solving skills. Involving employers in the classroom and curriculum is crucial, whether that’s speaking to primary school pupils, shaping a new apprenticeship or setting a degree level project.
Colleges are well positioned to understand the needs of employers with a strong focus on providing vocational qualifications in addition to academic and professional courses to degree level, linked to industry needs. At The Sheffield College, we have some excellent employer partnerships supporting a range of subject specialisms and our apprenticeship programmes.
If technical skills are key to employment and economic success, they need to be viewed on the same parity as academic qualifications. The government’s introduction of T Levels reflects a desire to ensure young people have highly esteemed, world-class technical skills.
Finally, we need to ensure that all young people can access impartial careers guidance so that they are aware of all of their options such as apprenticeships, for example, in addition to more traditional academic qualifications.