The Chancellor asked me some time ago to travel around and meet groups of undergraduates together with local industry. Certainly the students are very interested and businessmen are always listening and wishing to hear of others' experiences.
I think a culture of learning already exists in many companies. What is lacking is perhaps allowing the company's knowledge to be shared with people other than employees. Companies do hold a lot of information which would be useful to undergraduates and students if they could join in the learning process.
Alan Sugar Chairman of Amstrad
I see the UFI as fundamentally improving the competitiveness of UK industry. Today industry understands that its greatest asset is knowledge, and learning is the key which unlocks knowledge. Any initiative which improves learning has to be both exciting and important.
It requires the commitment of industry to work. Sometimes people in SMEs see building productive relationships with local colleges as something they can ill afford. For the first time the UFI makes it possible to engineer unique relationships and partnerships with learning providers with minimal time and management effort.
David Brown Chairman of Motorola UK and a director of the UFI
The UFI has to be a partnership, with one of the main partners being further education. There are around 470 colleges, they are reasonably distributed across the country, they've all got buildings, they've all got equipment, they've already got learning materials and they've already got staff. So if UFI just reinvented an alternative system, it would be a duplication and not helpful.
If, however, it uses FE to develop jointly new materials and to meet those people that we have collectively failed to meet previously, then we really would be in business. One of the areas where the pilot of UFI up in the north east seemed to work very well was its link with small and medium-sized businesses. And that seems to me a real challenge for us all.
As long as colleges can share in the development and writing of new material, those are the partnerships I want to see.
David Gibson Chief executive of the Association of Colleges
It's probably the most exciting innovation in the education and training arena for the past 30 years. It's something we've very much advocated, as it enables direct access to learning by individuals in the workplace and enables employers to set up access to learning without being reliant on institutions.
We've had a number of attempts at open learning, but this takes it into a new dimension in terms of making not only customised materials available, but also linking into tutorial support in an interactive way - feedback on an individual's progress and assessment directly through the information technology programme. That, from an employer's view, is very attractive.
Learning opportunities should be where learners are. I want to be able to turn to my VDU and spend 10 minutes brushing up on my skills. I want to be able to do it now rather than wait until there's an evening classI so you can take control as an individual.
Mary Lord Director of training and education at the TEC National Council