Hairdressers are in demand at IBM…Nov 21, 2013
Why, you may ask, would the world’s longest surviving giant of the computer world be interested in recruiting highly trained expert stylists?
The answer came at a fascinating debate held at the Association of Colleges conference in Birmingham where the subject under discussion was whether we are training too many people with that particular skill-set.
Certainly, many more people around the country are learning the trade than there are likely to be jobs to fill them, but really, that isn’t the point. What they do master on vocational courses like hairdressing is the transferable, wrongly named soft skills of teamwork, customer service and so on, which are invaluable in so many, if not virtually all businesses.
When the man from IBM spoke up what he said was that actually, he is happy to take FE graduates from a wide range of disciplines absolutely because they have learnt these things which make them far more fit and ready for the workplace than candidates from other educational routes.
We were treated to a speech from the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills today, the one and only Dr Vince Cable.
Following on from the words uttered by his ministerial colleague, Matthew Hancock yesterday, it is clear that he and his department get it where FE is concerned. BIS has identified eleven key industrial sectors (for example engineering, aerospace) where investment is needed to help them become powerful drivers of the British economy.
Dr Cable was urging FE colleges to carefully construct their courses in concert with employers to make sure we are teaching the skills which these industries need – and of course he’s pushing at an open door.
If he can persuade the Department for Education (DfE) that for some students this means less concentration on traditional classroom-style English and Maths and more adaptable, responsive training, we really could produce a generation to take Britain forward.
Today also saw the welcome announcement of a new pot of money being made available to Local Enterprise Partnerships. These organisations represent the coming together of business and local authorities with the aim of growing their particular economies.
We’re very lucky in Milton Keynes that our local LEP, SEMLEP, is extremely switched on and open to ideas. We would like to see some of the £130 million being distributed nationally going towards machine tools or industrial experts at the College to help with training people for precisely those sectors Dr Cable wants to promote.
On the subject of money, I have to report that our esteemed principal, Dr Julie Mills @CEOMKCollege, has dug deep into her handbag in the interests of charity, the furtherance of education and her own interest in Shadow Education Secretary, Tristram Hunt.
Mr Hunt has the devilish good looks and charm to bring out the inner giggly schoolgirl in our otherwise formidable leader.
She successfully outbid all other hopefuls for the chance to take tea with the Labour front bencher at a cost to herself (not College funds) of £250. To be fair, she has decided the kettle must be boiled in our very own The Brasserie at our Bletchley campus and the conversation will be entirely business-like and education focused.
What’s more, the money raised is going to the wonderful educational charity, the Helena Kennedy Foundation http://www.hkf.org.uk which, she tells me, was absolutely the only reason she bid at all.