Would you get out of bed to help boost 'productivity'?

In setting a vision for the college of the future, let's focus on partnerships – not productivity, says Iain Mackinnon
9th November 2020, 5:09pm

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Would you get out of bed to help boost 'productivity'?

https://www.tes.com/magazine/archive/would-you-get-out-bed-help-boost-productivity
Colleges Of The Future: Boosting Productivity Is Not Something Many In The Fe Sector Would Get Excited About, Writes Iain Mackinnon

Productivity. The word fair makes your heart race, doesn't it?

Is there anyone in the college community who would get out of bed a bit earlier if they thought they could enhance business productivity? Anyone at all?

The truth is that it's much the weakest of the "three Ps" that the College of the Future Commission used to set its ambition: "The college of the future will empower people throughout their lives with the skills they need to get on in life, support better productivity and innovation of businesses, and strengthen every community's sense of place."

I'm right behind the idea, but "productivity" is the wrong word. And it matters because the other two words - "people" and "place" - are so strong, and so much closer to what motivates most people in FE.

I think many college folk are motivated to work with employers, too, but that's nothing to do with "productivity". Some managers may use the word in speeches and in formal reports, but what really gets people out of bed is knowing that they're being useful to people.


More on the commission: The answer to 2020's major questions? Skills

Need to know:  'College of the future' report revealed

Opinion: Employers aren't the experts on education: teachers are


Young people getting a headstart in their careers, perhaps through an apprenticeship, slightly older people mid-career coming back for a higher level qualification or maybe a specialist short course, and entrepreneurs building a business, creating wealth and opportunity for others. They're all people with a personal story that you can connect with, working with their college partner to make some progress. And those companies are helping to build a more successful local economy, too - "place".

The future of colleges looks bright

The evening before the report came out last week, I watched a short film that South Devon College has just produced with its partner Princess Yachts to celebrate the company being awarded the Princess Royal Training Award by City and Guilds. Princess makes very smart yachts for discerning buyers around the world, and to do that it needs exceptionally high levels of skill. So buying in some courses from the local college the way you might buy a pint, or even a car, won't cut it; both parties need to invest in a long-term partnership. And they do.

As it happens, I know people on both sides of that partnership, college and company, and I've heard both say how much they value the relationship. When Alison Thompson, Princess' head of learning, talks in the film about why it works with South Devon, she emphasises its specialist expertise - "we wanted a marine environment" - and she talks about its specialist facilities: "One of the great things about South Devon is that they have a working marina with 10 vessels".

That's a big commitment, hard to fund and hard to keep funded. But there are good examples right across the maritime sector where specialist colleges have carefully nurtured their specialism, and their close relationship with employers, over decades.

I've earned my living for long enough as a consultant and I know the power of alliteration, so let's stick with three Ps. It's precisely because the commission has my full support in its focus on employers that I offer it this reworking of its headline ambition:

The college of the future will empower people throughout their lives with the skills they need to get on in life, support stronger partnership with employers, and strengthen every community's sense of place.

Iain Mackinnon is secretary to the Maritime Skills Alliance

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