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Skills on their own are not enough

February 5th, 2018 by Graham Attwell

electrnicengineerI have been involved in research in Vocational Education and Training for a long time. Vocational  Education and Training is a strange thing. Although always popular in the German speaking countries, for a long time it went out of fashion in many countries.  With the emergence of the Knowledge Economy, went the story, we needed more people with higher qualifications. Mass university education was the answer.

With the financial crash in 2008 and the onset of austerity and ‘the crisis’, this argument started to fall apart.  For one thing universities are expensive to run and where in countries like the UK, students were charged fees, many started to bulk at the debts they were running up. At the same time employers were complaining about the lack of ‘employability skills’ from university leavers. And questions started to be raised about the best way of learning the technical skills which economies were now deemed to require.

Especially in south European countries, the crisis led to very high and persistent levels of youth unemployment (in Spain and Greece over 50 per cent). This was seen as politically uncomfortable.

The answer was to reinvent vocational education and training. The European Commission and many national governments alike have returned to the idea of apprenticeship for mediating the school to work process and offering an alternative route to qualification for unemployed young people.

Generally, this may be seen as a good thing. Offering structured and high quality work based learning can provide young people with a route to a career. However, there are a number of problems. It is not possible to simply transfer the German Dual system of apprenticeship to other countries which lack a culture of employer commitment to training, even if the infrastructure and skilled trainers were to be available. Establishing an apprenticeship programme does not come cheap and requires investment.

Although economists seem these days to see high quality training as the answer to all evils from low productivity to high unemployment, reality is a little different. Productivity and employment are dependent on many different factors, including government policies, investment and a willingness to look at longer term returns on capital than has been common in some countries. Having a skilled workforce is one thing – but making the most of those skills is another

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    Online Educa Berlin

    OEB Global (formerly Online Educa Berlin) has announced its Call for Proposals and the overall theme for 2018: Learning to Love Learning. The event will incorporate Learning Technologies Germany – a leading European exhibition on learning technologies in the workplace – for the first time this year. More details here.

    Barcelona to go Open Source

    The Spanish newspaper, El País, has reported that the City of Barcelona is in the process of migrating its computer system to Open Source technologies.

    According to the news report, the city plans to first replace all its user applications with alternative open source applications. This will go on until the only remaining proprietary software will be Windows where it will finally be replaced with a Linux distribution.

    To support the move, the city will employ 65 new developers to build software programs for their specific needs. they also plan the development of a digital market – an online platform – whereby small businesses will use to take part in public tenders.

    OER18: Open to All,

    The OER18 Conference takes place in Bristol, UK on 18 – 19 April 2018. OER18 is the 9th annual conference for Open Education research, practice and policy. The final keynote has now been announced: Dr Momodou Sallah is Reader in Globalisation and Global Youth Work at the Social Work, Youth and Community Division, De Montfort University.  More about the conference:

    Learning about technology

    According to the University Technical Colleges web site, new research released of 11 to 17-year-olds, commissioned by the Baker Dearing Educational Trust, the charity which promotes and supports University Technical Colleges (UTCs), reveals that over a third (36%) have no opportunity to learn about the latest technology in the classroom and over two thirds (67%) admit that they have not had the opportunity even to discuss a new tech or app idea with a teacher.

    When asked about the tech skills they would like to learn the top five were:

    Building apps (45%)
    Creating Games (43%)
    Virtual reality (38%)
    Coding computer languages (34%)
    Artificial intelligence (28%)

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