And next, the 24-hour college

2nd May 1997 at 01:00
Training, training, training, to parody someone else, should be the call to arms of the new government, said David Cragg, chief executive of Birmingham Training and Enterprise Council.

Top of the agenda should be lifelong learning for all. There was much to be pleased about over recent years - the success of Investors in People and the improvements in NVQs.

"But we have to open up the education and training system to people in employment. We need a massive expansion in industrial participation in education and training, amounting to a sea-change in the range of opportunities for individuals. We need employers involving themselves with their own workforce, and using the public purse to create a virtuous circle."

The TEC has helped to finance Weekend Colleges for adults with work or family commitments in the week. Now Mr Cragg wants a 24-hour college. Talks are under way with LEAs, adult educators, libraries, FE colleges, and universities.

The Weekend College has taught him that putting power in the hands of individuals breeds enthusiasm and a sense of personal commitment. "What we are now looking at is the idea of family learning advisers, working with parents, young people, everyone in the family. It is just a glint in my eye and others at the moment. But it is a way of breaking the negative cycles of under-achievement by providing support to the whole family and not just part of it.

"We have not made education and training exciting or interesting enough. If we really mean to focus on skill shortages and our future skill requirements and competitiveness, and whatever we are doing in job-related training, we need to complement this with a much bigger campaign to involve individuals in learning. "

Current initiatives were a partial success. Take-up of Career Development loans was poor. Tax relief at source had limited use. "We must have a more strategic approach at local level. Not old-style bureaucratic planning but a partnership across institutions."

Schools, colleges and work-related training were in three boxes. They had to be brought together for greater coherence and value for money post-16, he said. "We must avoid competitive tensions. The TECs should not be competing with the colleges. We should be giving students and their parents advice but not advocating institutional competition between different routes."

There had also to be an end to competition between work-based routes and full-time education, said Mr Cragg. In Birmingham, 20 per cent of 18 to 24 year-olds were unemployed, and a new government has to face this issue. The answer was not disparate, 1980s-style community programmes, but planned progression routes, involving both work and training.

"I have the responsibility for the Youth Guarantee, but I should not have, it should be a collective responsibility."

If employment for life could not be guaranteed, "employability" must be, he said.

One tip for the new government, or "my contentious theory" as Mr Cragg put it, is to create a single, integrated careers and employment service. For small businesses it is too costly to find exactly the right person to fit the job.

"There is a crying need for a one-stop approach to that. We need a single organisation to advise individuals, regardless of their age, and a job-matching service for employers."

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