Dates of Inventions, Discoveries and other Developments

Dates of Inventions, Discoveries and other Developments.

This section complements the pen portraits ‘Great Engineers and Pioneers and their Education’ on this website.

Again it must be stressed that the industrial revolution was driven by craftsmen like James Watt, self- taught business people like Matthew Boulton and artisans like Henry Maudslay. It did not develop from London or through royal patronage but from Cities like Glasgow, Manchester and Birmingham. The universities played little part it its creation as many of the inventors and individuals never attended formal educational institutions and as the history of technical education identifies dissenting academies, mechanics’ institutions and working men’s clubs etc. made important contributions to their education as did the apprenticeship schemes active at that time. However the majority were self-taught and possessed a remarkable inherent, innate talent and outstanding manual skills.

It will further expanded.

1658: Clock balance spring. Robert Hooke.

1698: First attempt to use steam power. Thomas Savery.

1671: Silk spinning machine. Edmund Blood.

1701/08: Machine seed drill. Jethro Tull.

1709: Improved iron smelting process. Abraham Darby

1712 Steam engine. Thomas Newcomen and Thomas Savery.

1721: First mechanised water-powered silk mill at Derby. John Lombe.

1728: Ship chronometer. John Harrison.

1732: Threshing machine. Michael Menzies.

1733: Flying shuttle (weaving). John Kay.

1743: Wool carding machine. David Bourne.

1743: Compound lever. John Wyatt.

1746: Production of sulphuric acid by the lead chamber process. John Roebuck.

1758: First threshing machine.

1761: Bridgewater Canal. James Brindley.

1764/65: Spinning jenny – patented in 1770. James Hargreaves.

1769: Hydraulic spinning frame. Richard Arkwright.

1774: Leeds and Liverpool canal opened.

1775: First efficient steam engine improved Newcomen engine. James Watt.

1778: Improved flush toilet. Joseph Braham. Mortise tumbler invented. Robert Barron.

1779: First steam powered mills utilises Hargreave’s and Arkwright’s machines. Samuel Crompton.

1783: Improved iron manufacturing processes – rolling and puddling in 1784. Henry Cort.

1784: Invention of secure locks. Joseph Brahm.

1784: Threshing machine invented. Andrew Meikle.

1785: Vertical power loom patented. Edmund Cartwright.

1786: Two man operated loom patented. Edmund Cartwright.

1789: Thames and Severn canal opened.

1792: First domestic gas lighting system in Redruth Cornwall. William Murdock.

1793/1803: The Dee and Cierog iron aqueducts. Thomas Telford.

1795: Hydraulic press. Joseph Brahm.

1800: Development of bleaching powder. Charles Tennant.

1801/04: Steam locomotive. Richard Trevithick.

1813: Mine safety lamp. Humphrey Davy and George Stephenson.

1813: Improved loom developed. Samuel Horrocks.

1816: First ‘macadamised’ road surface.

1818: Middleton milling machine. Robert Johnson and Simeon North.

1821: Demonstration of the principle of the electric motor through electro-magnetic rotation. Michael Faraday:

1824: Chemical process patented for making Portland cement. Joseph Aspdin.

1825: Invention of the tunnelling shield. Marc Brunel.

1831: Electric generator. Michael Faraday.

1833/34: Differential calculating machine. Charles Babbage.

1834: Accurate measuring machine constructed to measure one-millionth of an inch. Joseph Whitworth.

1834: The photographic process discovered. Fox Talbot.

1839: Introduction of photographic paper. Fox Talbot.

1841: Standard thread accepted. Joseph Whitworth.

1843: First cement underwater tunnel opened– Thames Tunnel.

1853: Piloted glider. George Cayley.

1854: Invention steel converter. Henry Bessemer.

1856: Production of aniline dyes. William Perkin.

1873: Explanation of electromagnetism and waves. James Clerk Maxwell.

1894: Last major canal built in Britain – Manchester Ship Canal.

July 2014.

Is this a Weak Link?

One of the striking features of the secondary education system in England is the failure to introduce vocational elements into the curriculum. Successive attempts to create a long term and effective system including these elements have proved ineffective because of a whole series of factors, all of which have been discussed ad nauseam over many decades. Such worthy initiatives/schemes as CPVE, TVEI. GNVQ ,  link courses between schools and colleges and a series of reforms to establish vocational awards all ultimately failed because of political indifference or dogma. In addition many school teachers and LEAs were suspicious and in some cases hostile to TVEI.  I worked in one authority that was very supportive of the initiative and excellent relationships were established between the colleges, schools and the LEA. Some of these initiatives promised much but few were properly evaluated and any lessons learnt were never picked up as so often happens with other initiatives in his country.

At present the skills agenda is being promoted by the government although as usual mixed and often contradictory policies are being presented as can be seen from the latest consultation on ‘Apprenticeship Funding  Reform’ which would put a ludicrous burden on employers especially Micro businesses and SMEs . The centrality and importance of apprenticeships in creating a qualified workforce is on the agenda along with reforms to vocational qualifications but I feel that one major element is still absent which the government continues not to recognise and action. This deficit in the skills agenda is the absence of a long term, effective and mandatory set of work experience programmes such as work sampling/shadowing or work placement at school level reinforced by a curriculum that contains vocational subjects and themes.  The government’s recent decision to withdraw funding to help schools facilitate work experience is depressing and retrograde and again reflects the lack of strategic thinking on the development of a qualified and skilled workforce.

Significant evidence exists that shows that students achieve and perform better if they have experienced some form of work   experience or a greater practical awareness of the world of work. This is equally true whether the students are on the so-called academic programmes or vocational programmes. Furthermore the evidence shows conclusively that the earlier that experience occurs the better prepared the students are to more fully understand the needs of employment which in turn assists them to make better informed decisions about their future employment  and/or further studies.

In spite of this conclusive evidence schools still find it difficult to engage with industry and commerce. The government mantras of ‘march with the maker’s,’ students must have employability skills’ and ‘students must be work ready’ are meaningless when the schools are not prepared  to develop links with employers. In order to effectively realise a skills agenda and assist a rebalancing of the economy vocational elements and work based activities must be introduced from at least key stage 4.

So what are the reasons, whether real or imagined , why schools are reluctant to introduce these crucial elements into the curriculum?

Typical comments from school managers/teachers about vocational and work experience programmes are:

  • Too little time to arrange non-essential topics in the timetable (Note the word non-essential which indicates little understanding or sympathy for such activities).
  • The curriculum is driven by tests and examinations which allows little time for other activities.
  • The curriculum has become a strait jacket, a tread mill coupled with an obsession with academic subjects.
  • It’s difficult to establish industry-based projects which require cross subject involvement as colleagues are pinned down by form filling, teaching for tests and petty bureaucracy or they are not committed to the idea.
  • No time to release students onto programmes of work shadowing/sampling, work placement and arranging for visits by and to employers.
  • Students can undertake work placed experience at a later stage when at college; schools need to maintain an academically focused curriculum.
  • The need to study as many subjects for GCSEs is often mentioned; it would appear that schools have accepted that cramming the curriculum is the norm and success is measured by grades and maximising the number of subjects gained.
  • Employers cannot afford to expend resources especially at this time of recession and too often show they do not understand education.

Many of these factors are not necessarily the fault of the teachers; many are precipitated by present government policies which continue to heavily prescribe a narrow academic curriculum as evidenced by the replacement of functional skills by GCSE English and Mathematics. Also implicated is the acceptance by the government of a recommendation of the Wolf Review to stop funding for facilitating work experience in schools. Yes, academic drift is alive and thriving under this government whatever they say about vocational and apprenticeship programmes being a priority. Finally as has been said before staff in schools have little or no direct experience of the world of work outside their own profession following the traditional route of school, university/training college straight into teaching.

Employers especially the SMEs, which make up approximately 50% of all employers in the UK, must be provided with funding and equally importantly not tied down with increased petty bureaucracy. Effective and long term partnerships between schools, local colleges and training providers, professional bodies, LEAs and employers will surely increase the likelihood of a successful implementation of vocational and work experience programmes and remove the weak link in the chain which current policy represents.

 

 

A Threat to Rebalancing the Economy?

A concern in many countries is the current and growing trend among young qualified people who decide to leave to seek employment in other countries as a consequence of the continuing recession and financial crisis. Many young people have become increasingly disillusioned after qualifying to find they are underemployed or unemployed. If this trend continues to increase it will seriously undermine strategies to reform and rebalance the economies of countries in Europe and beyond. In addition people who have been made redundant or are in employment areas that are vulnerable to closure or down sizing are equally uncertain about their future employment prospects in their own countries.  One recent statistic highlights this development which is not just about the young people but that there has been a 45% increase in the redundancy rate for women over 50 between 2010 and 2013 compared with 13% increase in their redundancy rate in the previous few years.

The current spectre of high unemployment especially amongst young people emphasises the urgent requirement of a fundamental rethink of the methods a country uses to reconfigure its economy in order to recover from the current crisis and cope with all the uncertainties of the future.  To date very few governments, especially in the West, have failed to recognise let alone begin to tackle the underlying causes of the crisis. Indeed many are continuing to operate the same practices that caused the crisis in the first place e.g. an obsession with property and the rampant operation of the so-called free market which creates artificial bubbles that will in turn recreate the boom and burst economy. One depressing feature of the obsession with property and house ownership in England is that for young people buying a property is an almost impossible dream and is another factor in the desire to move abroad.

The current profile of employment in Britain lacks credibility and is based on highly questionable ethical practices comprising as it does people on part time contracts very often with little or no security of tenure or employment rights e.g. zero hour contracts. At present there are 1.4million people on zero hour contracts employed mainly by larger companies in Britain. Sadly other areas of employment are adopting this practice e.g. universities and colleges.  Also the country continues to be wedded to a skewed economy dominated by financial and banking services. The situation is particularly depressing when young people have been conned into going into HE with the expectation of appropriate employment for their subject specialism coupled with reasonable salaries. In addition they are lumbered with massive student debt with little prospect of clearing it in their life time – this is particularly the case in England and USA. The future for many young people is very uncertain and one can understand their frustration and desire to find meaningful employment and life abroad.

But it is these graduates and experienced workers of all ages who have been made redundant for whom the home country needs to revitalise and rebalance the economy. Many are the next generation who should be valued for the country’s future. Unless the country recognises this fact then people will migrate elsewhere and contribute to a more vibrant and secure economy there while their home country’s economy founders further.

Many commentators have argued that this is not a serious issue because of the dynamics of the world economy. The world over people will move to other countries and replace those who have left. This however raises many interesting questions about how a country plans and manages its education and training system. In the past the West has often been accused of poaching from abroad qualified people from such areas as nursing, other medical professionals and dentistry with all the associated ethical issues. After all these countries are often poor and have invested in their people’s education and training only to find richer countries benefit from that investment.  I have no problems about global mobility which will hopefully enrich, create mutual respect  and create greater understanding amongst different cultures but it must be managed in a more ethical and reciprocal fashion recognising the needs of each country.

If each country is serious about rebalancing its economy and realising a sensible level of employment it must carry out fundamental reviews of its education and training systems to more effectively match its future economy. Critical decisions need to be taken about the shape of the manufacturing /service industries and the skills that they require. In addition a more accurate analysis of the supply and demand requirements is needed that will create confidence amongst their own populations that the skills they possess will be recognised and valued by employers. Failure to carry out these reviews and reforms will weaken any attempts to rebalance their economies.

 

Re-balancing the Economy and the Skills Agenda

(A viewpoint jointly written by R Evans and A Rego. It reinforces many of the issues raised in other Parts of this website. I am very grateful to Artur for joining me writing this article as he brings a great deal of expertise and experience in examinations and assessments with City and Guilds across a wide spread of subjects and programmes).

The current financial crisis could provide some opportunities to
fundamentally re-evaluate and reform the way the current economy is managed
and operates. It is obvious that the current model of capitalism is flawed
and has been largely responsible for creating the crisis. It is based on a
number of false assumptions/beliefs including a culture that is built on
accumulating debt and the questionable operation of a largely unregulated
free market. Complex and abstract algorithms and manipulations of
derivatives of the stock exchanges have created a world divorced from the
real world and models constructed by pure mathematicians. It is a zombie
economy and unfortunately many governments in the West are still wedded to
this culture having learnt nothing from the past. Many countries continue to
borrow /print more money assuming that more debt will solve the problems! A
sobering statistic is that the global debt has increased 30 trillion dollars
since the financial crisis began and now stands at a staggering 100 trillion
dollars. Debt and the creation of highly questionable bubbles e.g.
associated with property caused the problems and increasing further the debt
is certainly not the solution. Such tactics as quantitative easing is not
the remedy as it only builds up more serious problems in the future and is a
classic example of short term expediency!

Surely this on-going crisis that has created so many problems including high
unemployment especially amongst young people and requires once and for all a
radical overhaul of the way the economy is managed. There must be a sensible
and equitable balance between the wealth producing elements of the economy
and one that is not skewed to financial services as has happened in a number
of countries e.g. Britain. Such major reforms must include reforming the
structure of the manufacturing base of the country along with how the
educational and training systems can produce more highly qualified people
for the industries of the future. In addition there needs to be an urgent
and fundamental review of what skills will be needed in the future and how
we define them. What is not needed that unfortunately many countries have
done is to cut training and education budgets even though a country has to
introduce austerity measures.

So what reforms could be introduced to rebalance the economy?

Summary:

To rebalance the economy the following actions have surely to be considered
and implemented:

Ø Develop a totally new paradigms of how the economy operates which is
balanced and independently regulated and audited

Ø Grow the economy and make this the top priority for wealth generation

Ø Invest long term in skills development and retraining the workforce

Ø Create a real economy based on sustainable skilled jobs and living wages
i.e. real jobs and real wages.

Ø Develop a balanced economy with a sensible balance between manufacturing
and service –based industries with a major emphasis on improving quality,
flexibility and productivity of the workforce.

Ø Emphasise national creation and growth that is based on carefully
considered, consistent and long term investment in industries that are
productive and responsive to world markets.

Ø Create more effective labour market intelligence systems and achieve a
more sensible balance between supply and demand

Ø Create more effective education and training systems with greater
commitment to work based training and apprenticeships.

It has become apparent in the post crisis world that financial and monetary
treatment of current socio-economic ailments neither generates value, nor
provides a solution for long-term development. It is only by shifting
attention to education and skills development that governments will be able
to establish a new platform for economic value creation and ensure the
viability of social and economic reforms aimed at rescuing nations from the
post-crisis havoc wrought by financial bubbles. Failing to found economic
pulsation on education will just lead to another inflated bubble and a
concomitant illusion of artificial, unsustainable social welfare based on
consumption credit rather than production-based real economic value.

In order to avoid fatal social economic crashes in the future the education
system will need to take responsibility for educating the upcoming
generation on financial savvy and basic financial concepts. Without being
armed with such knowledge the holders of skills will fail to make informed
financial decisions to avoid financial traps that destroy value creation.
Skills.

Reforming skills will form an essential element in rebalancing the economy in order to create a high quality, flexible and productive workforce. One critical factor is to clearly define and understand the concept of a particular skill and equally importantly the work context in which it will be applied as skills can be a slippery and constantly changing concept.  The dictionary definition of skills is fairly precise, namely “capability of accomplishing something with precision and certainty” and “practical knowledge in combination with ability”. This definition highlights the essential relationships between skill, practice and knowledge. Skills are about performing tasks, doing them well and doing them based on ‘practical knowledge’ Therefore skills have to be learnt and as a result bring about a combination of learning and skills as they are of equal importance. This conflation of learning and skills is to be welcomed as it places equal value on these two essential elements e.g. theory and practice, manual and cognitive skills. For too long there has been an artificial separation between subject and practice in the education/training world.  Clearly the location of the education and training systems must be central to the debates on rebalancing the economy in order to compete successfully on the global stage. Employers across Europe have identified the skills they want in employees and stress the importance of the following classifications:

  • Foundation, Intermediate and Advanced skills particularly manufacturing based occupations
  • Business, commercial, financial and service occupation skills
  • Technical and operative  occupation skills
  • Information Communication Technologies, scientific and mathematical skills
  • Skills for management and leadership in all sized companies

Currently these skills are grouped into three categories namely:

  • Basic/core/functional skills e.g. literacy, numeracy and capability in information communication technologies (ICT)
  • Generic/transferable skills – sometimes referred to as employability skills e.g. customer-handling, interpersonal skills, managing one’s own learning, problem solving, team working etc. (Employers particularly stress the importance of these skills).
  • Specific/specialist skills e.g. skills required in specific occupations.

The mobility of capital has resulted in the emergence of cross-cultural
work-places whose functionality is inconceivable without a common language.
As a natural evolution of history the role of such a lingua franca has come
to be filled by English, saliently altering the required trajectory of
skills development that also has to include English language, especially in
cultures where English is not a native tongue. The importance of English as
a Foreign language has come into the foreground in all daily work-place
interactions, encompassing job interviews, sending quotes and in describing
and understanding production processes. It has become inseparable from basic
employability skills. With the increase of immigration into the UK and the
need to integrate immigrants into local economic production, its importance
has never been more pertinent in the UK as well.

Of all awarding bodies, City & Guilds (CGLI) is one of the most dedicated to
integrating English language skills with other productive skills, by
offering a practical communicative English language qualification (called
International ESOL and Spoken ESOL) that has direct applications for the
work-based use of English language by skilled people, among others. This
ensures that all functional and specialist skills simultaneously become
cross-culturally transferable, enhancing their employability value.

In any debates about rebalancing the economy it is essential they must go hand in hand with fundamental reforms to the education and training systems. Past practices must be dispatched to the dustbin of history with historical signposts offering little assistance! New, creative and innovative approaches/ methods need to be adopted into the way learning and teaching is managed and operated. Education and training organisations and their staff must also be prepared to accept the new challenges and change many of their past practices. Some of the elements that need to be addressed and actioned are given below.

ü  Establish effective, sustainable and lasting links between education, training, industry and government

ü  To recognise that vocational/technical education and training is as important and on an equal footing as the so-called academic route.

ü  The introduction of well managed and widely available programmes of work experience, work based learning to all learners at schools, colleges and other training providers and at higher education level more sandwich courses

ü  Schools, colleges, training providers and universities must accept it is not just about formal academic instruction BUT ALSO about the importance of providing opportunities to all students to experience on-job training/work related learning (WRL) programmes. Expressed more precisely the urgent need to create a balance between theory and practice in the curriculum

ü  The essential requirement to have effective programmes of lifelong learning and programmes of continuous professional development (CPD) in companies and education and training providers.

ü  Identify and define what skills are required within each occupational area and develop long term strategies for skills development including for the higher levels i.e. 3+

Awarding bodies, notably City & Guilds (CGLI) and many others, have the function of
a spanning bridge between economy and education on the one hand, and economy
and society on the other. The standards they create to align the social
skills platform with the needs of production forces in the economy are
paramount for a successful transition to an education-based people-centred
economy. The role of awarding bodies has never been more important in that
respect: the learning and quality assurance based platform with which such
organisations support skills development are a reassurance to productive
economic forces that the pillars of future growth reside in their employee’s
skills.

However, awarding bodies are only endemic to the UK. In continental European
cultures the concept of an awarding body is relatively unknown in that
education standards are exclusively a government monopoly, with all its
systemic faults that on many occasions entail bureaucracy, inefficiency and
a failure to align the supply and demand of skills in local markets. From
this perspective the UK does have a vantage point to develop a unique skills
agenda that truly supports socio-economic developments for the benefits of
society.

Written by:

Dr R Evans and Artur Rego (Business Development Manager, City and Guilds, European Office)

 

 

The Further Education Unit (FEU)

Founded in 1977 the Further Education Unit with Geoff Melling its first chairman when Geoff returned to the inspectorate Jack Mansell was then appointed in 1980 to head up the Unit and soon proved to be an excellent director having an in-depth knowledge of the FE sector.  The purpose of the Unit was to advise on, and support research into, curriculum, learning and teaching matters associated with further education and was to be an independent agency from government even though it was funded by the DES. According to Geoff Melling the FEU was floated at the back of the Government document on the Unified Vocational Preparation (UVP which the government thought the FEU would be the agency to help develop the initiative. At the beginning the Unit had very limited resources but was able to establish effective and equal working relationships with the main awarding bodies e.g. CGLI, RSA and the then developing TEC, BEC and DATEC. The initial focus of the Unit’s work was pre-vocational provision which at this time received little attention from the main stream awarding bodies and indeed the FE sector. Three groups had been identified in colleges namely the youth unemployed (YUs), the young stayers-ons (YSOs) and the young workers (YWs) – sorry about the clumsy expressions they were the ones used at the time. The Unit and its publications greatly added influenced the development of pre-vocational curriculum. The Unit was acutely aware of the dearth of support for staff in FE on issues such as staff and curriculum development. The Unit was also one of the driving forces in the creation of Regional Curriculum Bases (RCBs) and Experimental Colleges (ECs). The Unit cleverly adopted both a pro-active and reactive stance on many issues although it must be said that the DES did not always welcome the FEU’s interventions or pronouncements. Clearly the Unit was established before the Manpower Services Commission (MSC) which when created impacted greatly on the Unit’s work and required the Unit to being a much larger organisation. However the Unit achieved a great deal in supporting the development of such initiatives as CPVE, PICKUP, REPLAN et.al. Another great feature of the FEU was the staff very knowledgeable, professional, very approachable and committed to the FE sector and its work. It was always a pleasure to meet with them at conferences/seminars or when they visited your college and many became friends. Also there was buzz when an FEU publication arrived in the college library/learning resources centre staff would be mentioning it to colleagues and discussing its content which reinforced the high regard the Unit and its work were held. The Unit developed an effective communications systems with colleges through its reports, bulletins etc. And staff genuinely valued the Unit and its work.

When Jack Mansell retired Geoff Stanton was appointed as Director again an excellent appointment who continued to provide valuable support to the FE sector until its demise.

Examples of some of the seminal publications in the form of reports, news-sheets, bulletins etc.  by FEU is shown below. A remarkable archive with many of the publications being as relevant today as when they were first published. I still have many of these publications and find them an invaluable resource.

Some examples of FEU publications:

A Basis of Choice (ABC) -a seminal document (1979)- this was focused on the Young stayer-ons, ABC in Action (1981), A Common Core of Skills for Vocational Preparation (1982), Active Learning (1978), An introduction to the FE Unit (1993), Aspects of CPVE (1986),  Assessment of Prior Learning and Experience (1990), Beyond Coping (1980), Black Students and Access to HE (1987), Continuous Professional Development (1981), Core competences in engineering (1985), CPVE (1985), CPVE and NVQ (1987), Day Release (1980), Developing Tutoring Skills (1985), Engineering Education (1984), Examinations and Assessment (1990), Experience, Reflection and Learning (1981)- this was focused on Young Workers, Extending TVEI (1985),  FEU response to the New Training Initiative (1981),  FEU response to Examinations 16-19 (1980), Higher Skills (), FE and YTS (1985), Language in teaching and learning (1977),  Post-16 TVEI (1985), Progressing for Vocational Preparation (1982),  17+ (1982), 17+ a new pre-vocational qualification (1982), 16-19 The FE Contribution (1977), Supporting YOP (19979)-this was focused on the Young Unemployed, The Unit in FE (1978), Tradec (1983), Understanding Accreditation (1992), Vocational Education and Training (1990).

The FEU was merged with the Further Education Staff College (FESC/Coombe Lodge), see later pen portrait, in 1995 and a single publically funded body was founded namely The Learning and Skills Development Agency (LSDA) that supported FE in England. Then in 2006 its functions were separated into the Quality Improvement Agency (QIA) and the Learning and Skills Network (LSN) and its trading subsidiary Inspire Learning (also known as The Centre for Excellence in Leadership (CEL). LSDA was to support post-16 education in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Inspire Learning and the QIA were re-absorbed into the same corporate body, the Learning and Skills Improvement Service in October 2008.Scotland had its own organisation to support post-16 education.

I will write other pen portraits of organisations that supported and worked with colleges in the near future.

The Crucial Importance of Apprenticeships

Apprenticeships and vocational education and training continue to appear on the political agenda but as so often occurs a number of policies are emanating from government that will impede their implementation. If the government is really committed to introducing a comprehensive high quality set of apprenticeship programmes then a totally new paradigm needs to be introduced with none of the historical apprenticeship practices. One crucial element in creating a more balanced economy with a revitalised and effective manufacturing base is a highly qualified workforce. This is where apprenticeships play a key role and they must become the top priority on the education and training agenda. I feel that if this is to become a reality the apprenticeship programmes must be preferentially treated in order to attract and retain participants. Apprenticeships along with technical and vocational education and training have been perceived for too long as second-class when compared with the supposed academic programmes such as GCSE/GCEs/Degrees. Employers must be at the centre of the development of apprenticeship programmes and their providers must not be exposed to inspection regimes currently operated by Ofsted as their model is inappropriate. However policy decisions already made by the government will undermine their introduction, effectiveness and the creation of a truly alternative career route to the so-called academic programmes. Some of these deterrent and destructive elements include:

(i)      The introduction of a loan regime for apprenticeship programmes

(ii)    The failure to fully recognise the practicalities that will confront employers if they are to lead the development and management of apprenticeships

(iii)   The failure to introduce a totally new paradigm in the operation and management of apprenticeships and once and for all disconnect them from the academic route; failure to introduce more appropriate inspections regimes for both employers and other providers of work based programmes. The latest example is the proposal to replace functional skill mathematics with GCSEs mathematics.

(iv)   The failure to introduce a comprehensive all-age IAG system and an extended awareness raising campaign in the media about the importance of apprenticeships.

 

 

(i)                  One aspect that specifically should not be introduced is a loan regime and yet that is exactly what the government has done, mirroring the model for HE students with all the attendant problems that has and will cause in the future. Apprentices aged over 24 starting on level 3 or 4 programmes can take out a loan for their tuition fees and the on-job training if the employer cannot or will not cover these costs. The apprentices will start paying back the loan when their income reaches £21,000 per annum.  Any loan scheme will most certainly deter people of all ages from enrolling on these programmes; quite rightly they will be reluctant to incur such debts. In particular the new Advanced and Higher-level apprenticeship programmes must encourage and attract committed and enthusiastic people who will include precisely those who would have already been deterred by the HE loan regimes. As a result of a very low take up (just 569 advanced learner loans taken up in nine months since their introduction) the government have said the policy was a mistake and intend to discontinue the loan system but so far nothing has happened. However if the loan regime ceases key questions need to be answered e.g. what will the funding mechanisms be for apprenticeships during the continuing period of austerity!

(ii)                The problem with placing employers at the centre of the apprenticeship programmes in the government’s current model is more associated with the feasibilities and practicalities that will confront employers – many employers do not possess the resources and administrative infra-structure necessary and at present are trying to ride out the financial crisis. If the government is serious they must support the employers with long term and sustainable strategies and funding and equally importantly recognise their problems. Also the current inspection regimes conducted by Ofsted are totally inappropriate for work based training e.g. making grades 1 and 2 as the chief criteria for accrediting training centres. Even the latest concessions about continuing to accredit providers who drop to grade 3 will still be subjected to additional conditions and monitoring. Many providers and employers are being deterred from getting involved with apprenticeship and other training programmes. Many employers being excluded have excellent networks with training providers and other employers, which is an essential feature for successful work based training.

(iii)               A classic example of the inability to divorce the apprenticement programme from the academic route is the intention to replace functional skills competence with GCSE mathematics and English. Functional skills reflected what work based students required and were therefore fit for purpose as they were delivered in real or realistic working environments and developed relevant applied skills as opposed to sterile classroom context exercises. If I were a gambling person I would put money on that functional skills will be dropped and GCSE maths will be put in their place – a crying shame!

(iv)              Equally important, as has been said many times, an effective system of Information, Advice and Guidance (IAG) has to be introduced which provides valid, honest broker ship and up to date data and information on the economic and business futures open to people of all ages. A recent CIPD survey highlighted again the inadequacies of IAG programmes and the lack of involvement of employers with schools and colleges. Survey findings showed that 58% of employers did not engage with schools and equally worrying 24% of employers interviewed had received no applications from 16-24 year olds for employment or apprenticeships again reflecting an information gap between education and the world of work.

The Value of Qualifications and the Question of Parity of Esteem!

The Value of Qualifications and the Question of Parity of Esteem.

The theme of this piece is as relevant to the plumbing profession as it is for all other vocational and technically orientated qualifications and occupations. It addresses the general perception that these qualifications are second-class and of low status when in fact they are strategically important subjects and occupations. This in turn has created a  view that colleges and their programmes are second class expressed in an attitude that if you cannot get into university then the second next option is a college; this perception has persisted ever since the establishment of the sector. It is a depressing situation as the staff in colleges are committed professionals and deliver key subjects in the technical, commercial and vocational disciplines.

One recurring issue in qualifications reform is how to express and demonstrate equality between the so-called academic and vocational awards i.e. using some educational jargon ‘parity of esteem’.  This country is almost alone in being preoccupied with this notion/concept but it figures significantly in any debates or proposed reforms of the qualification frameworks. Other countries with successful vocational education systems do not see it as an issue because they recognise that the qualifications are intended for different people with different occupational intentions and need to be fit for purpose and are therefore seen as possessing equal value and status. Sadly this country sees it differently preferring to rank all the awards and extol the superiority of academic awards and degrees. Just read any of the recent reports and reviews e.g. Richards and Perkins. Reforms always seem to strive for simplicity and convenience with regard to vocational qualifications coupled with an avoidance of any significant reform to the academic awards e.g. GCSE and ‘A ‘levels.

Also the constant reference to the importance of university education does not help the debates and Career information, advice and guidance which emphasises that university education is the best option for school/college leavers is not being impartial but is misleading. This inevitably creates the idea of first and second-class awards and the constant use of the term parity of esteem perpetuates and reinforces a false and unchallenged assumption of inequality between the routes and resultant qualifications. What is required once and for all, is a long term commitment to creating qualifications that are fit for purpose and which recognise the defining aspects of each set of qualifications for their respective aims. Each route is vastly different and requires different techniques/approaches in such areas as assessment and curriculum content and emphasise that value of the qualification that is fit for purpose and is relevant for the skills, knowledge and competences required in the workforce. The idea of routes in itself is not a negative thing as long as the value of each route and automatic negative value judgments are not made about the content or the ability of the students and their vocational achievements on leaving compulsory education. The routes must allow fair and easy progression and transition if the learner’s aspirations or competences change.

Summary:

The concept of parity of esteem should be banished to the dustbin of history in the debates on qualifications and instead the focus should be on their ‘fitness of purpose’. In fact I would argue that the obsession with the concept of parity of esteem has held this country back from developing an effective system of vocational education and training. One essential feature must be emphasis on the strategic importance of vocational awards and the associated skills, knowledge and competences that will create a flexible, productive and highly qualified workforce.

First published in Education and Training Matters for Plumbing Lectures for the CIPHE in Spring 2014.

Technical Education and the Inseparability of Academics and Industry

Inseparability

Image Courtesy ofvalleytech.k12.ma.us

Vocational education paved the way for learners of all ages to acquire necessary skills for technical industries. In the past, it was integrated in the mainstream curriculum. Over the years, this integration between academic and technical education was phased out, creating a significant lack of qualified applicants for jobs involved in such industries.

It can be attributed to the disappearance of the previously blatant support of corporations to the technical curriculum. Before, companies involved in the technical market were offering partnerships for schools as part of their campaign to build a workforce. Today, less than likely will anyone find training services from private companies in the school system.

Indivisibility of education and work

In 1907, the Smith Vocational and Agricultural High School were institutionalized, becoming the very first technical school in Massachusetts. With its mission of preparing high school students for an academic diploma and an official Certificate of Occupational Proficiency, many schools all over the world have failed to make such seamless integration. Its emphasis is on building skills that aren’t easily taught within the four corners of the traditional classroom. These include analytical skills, resilience, teamwork, and work ethics and habits – all traits required for a successful professional life.

Many of the skills most needed to compete in the global market of the 21st century are technical skills that fall into the technical/vocational area,” said San Francisco State University’s professor emeritus of secondary education Mark Philips. “The absence of excellence in many technical and vocational fields is also costing us economically as a nation.”

Social stigma of colored collars

Time and time again, students have had the pressure of keeping their skills in the dark due to the stigma that comes with ‘skilled labor’. For example, a high school senior who is interested in car engines and mechanics might want to develop this interest into a career, yet family and friends might convince him or her otherwise. The thought of making a career out of ‘hand-based jobs’ makes society cringe. Occupations such as massage therapy, cosmetology, and auto-mechanics are considered below than the regular 9-to-5 office desk job.

As a tip, how2become’s Richard McMunn said present your value as a potential employee. Provide the company you’re applying for the skill set you’ve gained and how you think it would be beneficial to them today and in the long run. It takes one confident applicant to defeat the social norm.

Other road to success and happiness

Unknown to some, a four-year degree is not the only way to achieve success at work. In fact, many jobs in our modern and global society can be considered vocational or technical. Many professional jobs also require certain vocational skills, and it reflects on the increasing mismatch between jobs and job seekers.

In the 21st century, technology drives technical education more than anything. There exist online portals and discussions, even going as far as becoming references for absolute self-study. Smartphones and tablets become Swiss army knives for all sorts of technical jobs that doesn’t require a full-blown desktop computer.

Ultimately, vocational education of both secondary and post-secondary tier should be given more attention. The old private-academia partnership might be a thing of the past, but the government has all the capability to create trainings and specialized classes. Additionally, the basic unit of the family is where everything should start.

[B]eing able to begin legitimizing vocational education in a district may also depend on successfully re-educating parents regarding the value of occupations that aren’t high on the social status scale,” noted Phillips. Society has devalued manual skills. It’s time to reintroduce it as an equally valuable necessity as cognitive skills, and thus should be developed on a more local level.

Dennis Redley is a contributor to several e-publications and blogs centering on education technology. He has volunteered as a youth tech teacher in many boroughs, gathering experience for his future as a technology professor. You may talk to Dennis on Twitter @dredleyone.

Recommendations of the Select Committee on Scientific Instruction 1867-1868

The Select Committee on Scientific Instruction deliberated and met from 1867 to 1868 and reported in July 1868. It concluded with a series of conclusions including:

  • Effecient elementary instruction should be available to every child to enable the working class to benefit from scientific instruction.
  • In order for this to be effective, regular attendance of the child for a sufficient period must be obtained.
  • Elementary schools should teach drawing, physical geography and the “phenomena of nature”.
  • All those who are not obliged to leave school before the age of 14 should be taught science.
  • Parliament and the nation should consider immediately the reorganisation of secondary education and the introduction of more scientific teaching.
  • Certain endowed schools in the relevant districts should be reconstituted as science schools. Exhibitions open to public competition would enable children of every grade to rise from the lowest to the highest school.
  • Fees alone cannot adequately fund colleges and schools of scientific education: the State, the localities, endowments or other benefactors could contribute.
  • Centres of industry are ideal locations for such colleges and schools due to the possibilities of combining science with practice, and also because some pupils would not be able to live far away from home.
  • The agricultural districts in particular of England in general do not enjoy sufficient State grants for scientific instruction.
  • These provinces of England are entitled to increased funding.
  • Increased pay for science teachers would probably ensure the establishment and permanence of elementary science classes.
  • The Public Libraries and Museums Act should be amended to enable public bodies to charge slightly more for scientific purposes.
  • The managers of teacher training colleges should devote more time to instructing elementary teachers in theoretical and applied science.
  • Teachers in elementary day schools should be paid on the basis of the results for teaching science to older scholars. The universities of Oxford and Cambridge should grant degrees in science.
  • A closer relationship between government institutions for scientific in London would increase the efficiency of each institution.

Members of the Samuelson Commission included Swire Smith (Woollen manufacturer), John Slagg (MP and a cotton magnate). Philip Magnus and Henry Roscoe. Witnesses included Thomas Huxley (Dean of College of Science), G. Wedgewood a senior partner in Wedgewood and Son and William Siemans (President of the Midland Institute).

The Future Shape of Work?

At this time of continuing financial crisis, high youth unemployment and ever accelerating technological advance the issues associated with the shape of work and the workforce in the future and its implications for education and training have never been so important.  The reality is that employment and employability are changing at an accelerating rate. Over the past two or three decades work patterns have changed albeit gradually, evidenced by the following factors:

  • The exponential growth of technological advance is now greater than the ability of people to keep in touch with the technologies and its consequences i.e. there is an increasing gap between technological advances and the ability of society and people to manage it.
  • Jobs have been lost because of automation and the increasing use of robots in a wide range of industries.
  • Part-time employment, zero hours employment and self employment has increased partly as a result of contracting out of services.
  • Expectations of life-time employment with a single employer has significantly declined in many occupations.
  • Employment in small companies and self-employment have increased.
  • The level of knowledge, competences and skills for employability has risen, while the number of unskilled and semi-skilled jobs has declined.
  • An increasing recognition of the importance of further education/training and continuing professional development (CPD) because of advancing technologies and newer industries
  • Reduced dominance of large companies and increased importance of SMEs.
  • Increase in female participation in employment.

This list is not by any means exhaustive but attempts to reflect the multitude of factors and inter-connections between them driving the changes. However these changes will accelerate with the continuing advance in technologies particularly with automation, robotics, 3D printing and nano-technologies and the need to create new occupations associated with these. People will increasingly moving between paid employment, self-employment, voluntary work and periods of learning depending on their circumstances and personal decisions.

There has always been a tension between education and training for the present (i.e. the skills and knowledge that are required by employers now) and for the future (i.e. skills and knowledge that will be required later by employers) because of mismatches between supply and demand. Mismatches have long existed  because of supply and demand issues and three components can be identified namely employers’ demand for the correct skills, providers’ supply of education and training opportunities and the demand for skills from learners and potential learners. The resulting mismatches can be represented as follows:

  • Employer demand – provider supply: the mismatch between employer demand for particular skills and the supply of skilled people from providers.
  • Learner aspirations – employer demand: the mismatch between what learners aim to achieve through education and training and the skill needs of employers.
  • Provider supply – learner aspirations: the mismatch between the programmes offered by providers and the expectation and needs of the learners.

Although the problems that arise from these mismatches are constant the potential solutions vary with time depending on government policies, the dynamics of international competition, what resources exist and the changing structure of post-16 learning and skills. However these mismatches will inevitably become even more pronounced with the uncertainties that will exist in the future. However in order to create a successful economy the education and training system must recognise and adapt to the complexities and challenges that future patterns of employment and work will present both to employers and employees. This is why education and training is critical in recognising the challenges and being able to respond quickly and effectively to these challenges. Achieving the necessary checks, balances and matches is going to be difficult because the uncertain and increasingly volatile and dynamic environment will be further complicated by the multitude of players and stakeholders involved. Finally the situation will inevitably be exacerbated by politicians who will continue to tinker and intervene with policies that relate to employment, the national economy and education/training etc. One example of the negative influence of government is the time factor that comes from the inertia of governmental policies as well as the legal and social systems to adapt and recognise the urgency of the changes that will be required. A quote from an RSA report ‘Government, the law and social systems take months and years to react; modern companies work in hours and days’ (1).

So what are the possible factors that will shape work and employment in the future and how should education and training respond to those changes and challenges? The transitions that will change the nature of employment and the consequences for education and training are again many and inter-connected and a few are as follows:

  • The urgent need to improve the levels of scientific, mathematical/numerical and technological literacy and methodology of the workforce and society in general.
  • This country must prepare people to work in industries that are engaged in producing products at the higher end of manufacturing and further up the value chain.
  • Linked with the previous statement the developments associated with Information and Communications Technology (ICT) will challenge existing business, cultural, economic social practices and structures. The need to manage large data/information sources/sets will require people to become more able to effectively and efficiently access, select, evaluate and analyse data. Equally importantly companies will need to become more effective in mining’ the massive amounts of data/information that will benefit their businesses.
  • The need to further develop basic (i.e. numeracy, literacy and IT skills), the wider interpersonal skills (i.e. communication skills, working in a team, planning/managing one’s own learning, managing change) and generic skills (i.e. reasoning skills, scheduling work and diagnosing work problems, time management, work process management skills, evaluating and appreciating information, risk management, managing change and planning skills).
  •  Develop a greater understanding of the values of how society, government and businesses work.
  • The increasing need to recognise the challenges of globalisation and greater competition and the importance of knowledge of foreign languages and cultures and the desire by businesses to locate anywhere in the world where greater levels of flexibility, productivity and profits can be realised.
  • Respond to the impact of the myriad of ecological issues e.g. resource- efficient processes, smart and green developments across many sectors like transport, water conservation, alternative energy supplies, biotechnologies etc.

The sad reality is that the way current business practises and capitalism operates are not conducive to protecting the environment and incompatible to a green agenda so a new paradigm for businesses is urgently required coupled with a fundamentally reformed model of capitalism! For example over 70% of current employment is dependent in one way or another on the continued use and exploitation of fossil fuels.

Education and training must recognise and respond to these transitions as the boundaries between work and non-work become more uncertain and the skills for work and citizenship and work and life become more complex and the required skills themselves become less clear and converge. Skills are a slippery concept and require careful monitoring and must recognise adapt as the world of work itself changes. People leaving education and training must possess new sets of skills and competences in addition to the existing ones in order to cope with the future employment challenges and in turn contribute to the country’s economic health more effectively.

(1)    ‘Redefining Work’. RSA. 1998.