Career in nurturing successful futures

6th October 2000 at 01:00
Cumbria's new learning and skills council director has been a union rep and a careers executive, says Simon Midgley

MICK Farley is probably the only new director of a local learning and skills council to have been congratulated by both the Trades Union Congress and the Confederation of British Industry.

The 58-year-old director designate of the Cumbria Learning and Skills Council has experience across the employeremployee divide. In the early 1980s he was TUC representative on an advisory group which helped to determine the content and standards of the Youth Training Scheme (YTS).

For the past four years, however, he has been chief executive of Career Decisions, the company that delivers the careers service in Liverpool, Sefton and Knowsley. While Mr Farley has spent his career promoting learning, his experience has encompassed teaching in schools and colleges, serving as a national official for the lecturers' union NATFHE and working for two major urban local authorities. He was also deputy chief executive of Merseyside Training and Enterprise Council.

He considers the canyon that has historically divided education from training in the UK to have been divisive and unhelpful. "We should talk about learning rather than education and training. We should all be learning throughout our lives," he said.

"The formation of the national Learning and Skills Council and its 47 local arms is a significant development. Post-16 education and training needs to be planned and funded in a coherent and cohesive fashion. The advent of the council which will eventually cover FE colleges, work-related learning, sixth-form provision and adult and community education, gives us an ideal opportunity to effect that coherence and cohesiveness," he said.

"We have the opportunity to createa system of post-16 learning that is the best in the world. It will not happen overnight, however, and we have some way to go to get to that. But I am very optimistic that the establishment of the LSC and its local councils will lead us to that goal."

Born and brought up in Redditch in the West Midlands, Mr Farley was the only child of a shipping manager in a needle factory. He attended Kings Norton grammar school before reading maths and philosophy at Bristol University and then taking his PGCE at Exeter University.

In the mid-1960s he taught mathematics in teacher training colleges in Ghana for two years before returning to teach at Frensham Heights in Surrey, a progressive independent school slightly less laissez faire than Summerhill. He went on to teach at Dorking Grammar School before becoming a maths and general studies lecturer, and then head of physical sciences at Hitchen College.

In the late-1970s he became assistant secretary (FE) at NATFHE, at a time when the union was at the cutting edge of various progressive education and training initiatives. He helped to develop the Youth Opportunities Programme and design the Certificate of Pre-Vocational Education.

He was also involved in developing programmes to give young workers further opportunities for training. In a sense, Mr Farley said, these programmes laid the foundation for today's situation where most young people are involved in some form of learning until they are at least 18.

Over the past three decades Mr Farley has been involved with many educational initiatives.

In his spare time Mr Farley, who is married with no children, is a mountaineer. He has just returned from a trip scaling the Bolivian Andes. Perhaps it is unsurprising, then, that his new job should be in the Lake District.

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