Let's have a UCAS-style clearing house for FE, says skills chief

2nd January 2009 at 00:00
There should be a universities-style clearing house for vocational training to make it easier for young people to find courses and placements, the head of a skills promotion body has said.

Simon Bartley, chief executive of UK Skills, said there was no single location to find training opportunities, as there was for university courses through the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service.

A web-based clearing house could carry details of all training opportunities provided by employers, colleges and private training firms, which students could then search by location or topic, he said.

"The new national apprenticeship service could do a lot worse than have an organisation such as UCAS, which clearly puts out information that enables people to make considered choices about what they want to do," he said.

"At the moment, if you live in Lewisham you will probably look at the brochure for Lewisham College and maybe Greenwich or Bromley, but it is unlikely you would think about going away to college in say Darlington or Warwickshire. There's a lot of work to be done to support learning at FE colleges."

Teachers have tended to promote university education at the expense of vocational courses, Mr Bartley added: "School teachers should be more considered in their approach. Is it right that they keep promoting higher education to people when some would be better off going into vocational education, whether via college or employment?"

He cited the drop-out rate on undergraduate courses - in 2006-07, just under 9 per cent of full-time UK undergraduates left after their first year - as evidence that some young people were being directed towards university even though they were not suited to it.

"We have to persuade teachers, parents, carers and careers advisers that there is an alternative way of being successful in their working lives," he said.

Mr Bartley said UK Skills has raised nearly a third of the funding it needs to stage the World Skills competition it plans to host in London in 2011.

The Pounds 32 million "skills Olympics" will be half funded by the Government and half by commercial sponsorship raised by UK Skills.

So far, UK Skills has mustered Pounds 2.5m, with another Pounds 2m of deals close to being signed. And the recession has not prompted anyone to turn down requests for sponsorship or cancel deals signed since the bid was won in 2006.

UK Skills is looking for around Pounds 7m to Pounds 8m of "in kind" sponsorship, such as help fitting out the arena where events ranging from competitions in mobile robotics to hairdressing will be held.

The body organises competitions in vocational skills to promote training to employers and learners. It also put together the UK team for the World Skills events.

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