Every day’s a school day, so the saying goes.
But is it? Or is it more of a case of go to school (college, university), get qualifications, and get a job – errr, and that’s it.
It may seem odd to start a column about skills, education and learning in South Yorkshire by referencing a Scandinavian actor – and before I get to any of our If You Ask Me contributors, too – but bear with me. (It’s not often I get to crowbar my love of Nordic Noir telly into my writing!)
Because during an interview I read recently with actor Thure Lindhardt, co-detective in the Swedish/Danish crime drama The Bridge, when asked ‘What’s the best thing about Denmark?’ he said it was the Public High School for adults, started by teacher, theologian, politician and pastor N.F.S. Grundtvig in the 1800s.
As Saga Norén’s sidekick went on to explain: “It’s a six-month school where you go to study agriculture, philosophy, religion … Almost everyone has done it, it’s education for everyone.”
This concept of education for everyone, and for education for adults in particular, really hit home with me while writing about skills, lifelong learning and workplace – and personal – development for this issue of unLTD.
It also stayed with me while reflecting on the comments from our If You Ask Me contributors.
Sheffield Chamber of Commerce executive director Richard Wright, for example, shares his view that ‘The need to be ‘Ofsted good’ drives schools and colleges to focus on passing exams to the detriment of everything else. This process-driven, box-ticking system is in complete conflict with the needs of a system trying, for instance, to re-engage students who have attained very little and are often from deprived areas where they get little support.’
A ‘detrimental impact’ identified by Conor Moss, director of Education and Employer Partnerships at Sheffield Hallam University, is the ‘sharp distinction’ between academic and vocational education routes. As he points out, this has a negative effect on the ‘ability to apply academic thinking and innovation quickly within the workplace along with availability of the vocational technical skills employers need to increase performance and productivity’.
Meanwhile Kevin Donnelly, area leader for Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) South and East Yorkshire and The Humber, points out employability isn’t just about skills.
‘Many employers list attitude and reliability as one of the first attributes they look for in an employee. This is difficult to achieve when so many young people are in the wrong job, due to a lack of information and opportunities offered to them when making career choices.’
Finally, one of the first comments Anita Straffon, Deputy Chief Executive of The Sheffield College, makes is: “Education is a lifelong process that underpins the success of individuals, communities, employers and the economy.”
Which brings me back to TV’s Thure and his pride in the Public High School. I did a little research and found that one of the main concepts remains ‘lifelong learning’, with education ‘shedding light on basic questions surrounding life of people both as individuals and as members of society’.
An illuminating concept to be found via my Nordic Noir binge-watching after all!