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Tides of change;TECs;Interview;Olivia Grant

Tyneside TEC chief executive Olivia Grant tells Michael Prestage why initiatives are continually reviewed.

THE ROLE of training and enterprise councils in fostering links between business and education must continually evolve to make the best of the partnership, says Olivia Grant, chief executive of Tyneside TEC.

She says that at her own council there are on-going reviews of initiatives in the light of changing needs and lessons learned from the past.

And she adds: "One of the areas of great change has been in formulating ways of tackling dissatisfaction. The great thing is that once you have a good partnership with local education authorities, further education colleges and employers it is exciting to see everyone rise to the challenge."

She says the four local authorities in the TEC's area - Newcastle, Gateshead, North Tyneside and South Tyneside - had strong links with the council and there was a clear understanding of each other's role in supporting effective transition from education to employment.

The council provides a co-ordinating role and a point of contact. It has already established links with more than 1,500 local employers, but is aware there are another 7,500 who have not been brought on board.

Links with industry must enrich the curriculum to help raise standards of achievement, she says. The training and enterprise council needs to improve the quality, coherence and effectiveness of education and business links.

"We see education and business partnerships as a flexible and cost effective way of working together. The TEC's role is to get employers to the table and the education directors are there to then use them to best effect."

There is also work on improving in-service training for teachers, and a survey is being completed on the destination of all school-leavers, that will be available to all schools.

Olivia Grant says: "There are lessons to be learned all the time as we get better at using the knowledge of employers to help teachers make the curriculum feel relevant."

An example was a link with manufacturer Procter and Gamble. Primary children used the company's products in a science project .

Tyneside decided to place an emphasis on primary school children for business links. This helps engender in young people an idea that manufacturing is an interesting and lively environment while bringing lessons alive. School material has been produced that includes a CD-Rom, and a character called Mini Machine has been created that will be sent to all primary schools in the four local authorities.

Work is being done to help schools who want to deliver general national vocational qualifications by encouraging business links, including a project with special schools.

To help disaffected young people a mentoring system has been developed. Next year 400 young people will be assigned a mentor from the business community, and there will be 400 graduate mentors.

Olivia Grant believes that "one of the most important things is to help young people find their way without being judgmental. There has to be a wide variety of employment opportunities presented to young people and business and education links help provide that."

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