Monday, 24 October 2011

Employer engagement in education and young people

What is the role of employer engagement in education? In our rapidly changing world of work this is one of the more pressing questions relating to young people in education and employment.
At this year’s Education and Employers Taskforce conference the keynote speaker and lead author on the Pathways to Prosperity report, professor Bob Schwartz of Harvard outlined why young people’s engagement in education is a challenge for educators, policy makers and employers and what needs to be done.
The two things which stood out for me were; (1) today many young people simply drift into four year degrees with no planned career path. What he calls the ‘four year drift’. And, (2) 25 per cent of young people in the US do not complete high school. Looked at individually or collectively these present long-term challenges for anyone involved in education.
Parallels can be made between his observations about the US education system and that of the UK. For example a recent survey by the Association of Colleges suggests that 49 per cent of colleges have seen a fall in the number of students enrolling. Furthermore, organisations such as the CBI, which represents employers, complain that many young people do not even have the skills which employers need after completing four year degrees. This leads to what experts refer to as the 'four year drift' or for those on a three year programme 'the three year drift'.
One of the consequences of this 'four year drift’, is that we’ve ended up in a situation where there is a “mismatch for jobs”. Jobs are available but graduates don’t have the skills.
With youth unemployment in Britain now standing at 21.3 per cent amongst 16-24 year olds, the education system needs to offer alternative pathways which would reduce the skills deficit, re-engage young people in learning and reduce unemployment.
As Professor Schwartz points out, for this to happen, parents and young people need to have an understanding of the economy. Secondly a strategy has to be developed to get more employers involved in education as governments today do not have the resources to address these challenges.
Appropriate and purposefully employer engagement in education can help reduce the number of young people starting suffering long periods of unemployment. It helps young people make the connection between what they are learning and what they need to know, thus making the transition from education to the world of work much easier.   
Our current research which is still in phase 1 seems to be pointing to evidence which suggest that enterprise and entrepreneurship education that involves employers is more engaging and achieves greater impact, when it comes to engaging young people in education and employment.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Leadership and Enterprise

David Cameron’s speech to the Conservative party conference was big on hope and optimism. It reminded me of something Barack Obama said during his 2009 inauguration speech. “Starting today we need to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and begin again the work of remaking America.” This time around it’s the UK economy which needs remaking.
In an attempt to raise his audience’s aspirations and fix their gaze on the economic challenges facing Britain and respond to claims that our economy is the sick man of Europe, the Prime Minister said “we came back and turned this country into a beacon of enterprise.” Noting; “it's not the size of the dog in the fight - it's the size of the fight in the dog.”
Overcoming the challenge, confounding the sceptics, reinventing ourselves and growing the economy as the Prime Minister wants us to do, requires more than words. We need to build on these intentions with practical and detailed actions, about how we can become a beacon of enterprise.
The aspects of his speech which chime with the Pearson Centre for Policy and Learning research on enterprise and entrepreneurship education are ideas of self-esteem, confidence, training and skills, hard-work, independence, creativity, adaptability, optimism and a can-do attitude. These are the sort of skills and behaviours which an initial literature review of enterprise and entrepreneurship education suggest an enterprising nation needs to develop in its people.
If we are to compete and stay ahead of the likes of China, India and Brazil, provide skilled staff which employers need, then cutting red tape which stifles entrepreneurial activity and providing government funding as the Prime Minister suggested are both steps in the right direction.
This week the Financial Times reported that the UK’s most successful entrepreneurs are still creating jobs on a large scale, despite rising unemployment, the government could be doing even more to support enterprise and entrepreneurial education in schools, colleges and universities.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Internships and the future of jobs

Last week’s Economist’s special report on ‘The Future of Jobs outlined the some realities about the changing world of work, unemployment and the skills required to survive within it. One of the pieces sub-titled ‘Employers are getting free workers, interns are getting a free education’, written in response to concerns about graduates working for next to nothing, raises questions about the value of internships.

With global unemployment at an all time high 7.9 percent in the UK and over 9 percent in the US, internships are a must for most graduates.  On top of this the price of a university degree is set to become more expensive, forcing many students to reconsider the university route into work. Choosing to becoming a serial intern would be one way of avoiding those huge fees and securing a job. In light of these facts, are graduate interns really working for next to nothing?

Based on experience I would say on the face of it quite often they are when you factor in the cost of living in London and if you don’t have parents with deep pockets and connections to support you through the internship the pay most interns receive is not enough to survive on.

However what is often over-looked by those who say graduates are working for next to nothing is that, “they are getting a free education, something a few universities provide these days” as the writer of the piece argues. A workplace education gained through an internship give students the chance to gain knowledge of the world of work and develop a broad range of skills which they might not have gained during their time in academia. This is not to say an academic education has no value.

Having interned within organisations such as the Demos, BBC and more recently Pearson what I have discovered, is that internships can serve as important building blocks, helping to cultivate the soft and practical workplace skills employers need graduates to have. The Pearson internship gave me the opportunity to experience different parts of the business whilst learning on the job.

The Benjamin Franklyn maxim “Tell me and I forget show me and I remember, involve me and I understand” should be applied to Internships. By involving students in the culture of the workplace helps develop a better understanding of the skills they need for future of jobs.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Where's the UK Jobs Plan

The cacophony surrounding Sir John Vickers report commissioned by the Coalition government seems to be drowning out more important long term questions over how we grow our economy or how the recommendations of the report fits into wider narratives about job creation, high unemployment and the creation of a vibrant workforce capable of competing  in the global economy. Of course I understand that if we have banks with higher capital ratios in relation to what they lend and the separation of high street banking from investment banking operations banks are more likely to be on a much sounder footing.

As bankers, economists and our Chancellor now acknowledge the world economy, the UK included needs a get out of jail card to avert another crisis. The US President responded with a Jobs Plan in Congress setting out in clear detail a series of policy measures which he hopes the Republicans will pass. In view of such bold measures to revive and re-build the US economy the question we need to ask our politicians is where is the UK’s Jobs plan for growth?

Are enterprise zones the way out or is it a combination of quantitative easing, fiscal policy, and the building institutions which support entrepreneurialism the answer, as suggested by Will Hutton of the Work Foundation in Monday evenings Newsnight analysis of the Vickers report.

As researcher at the Pearson Centre for Policy and Learning currently reviewing existing literature on enterprise education and entrepreneurship it is clear that a fair amount has been written on the subject. In the absence of government support and leadership in this area the Centre through its research findings and recommendations will aim to inform current thinking on how enterprise education and entrepreneurship properly embedded within our education system could be harnessed to drive the UK economy at time when clarity is needed on a way forward. 

Saturday, 27 August 2011

London and UK wide riots in words

The sudden eruption of violence across the UK caught the political establishment and state apparatus off guard. It also left journalist, media commentators and the wider general public asking why? 

Social and moral decay of values within our commuinities and wider society we are told has brought us to this position. In an attempt to label and blame those responsible our politicans aided by media have reached for a barage of words which will only serve to alienate those on the margins of our society. 

The following is a visual presentation of the words used to provide answers on why the riots took place and to define those responsible for bringing chaos on to our streets.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Can enterprise education help the UK economy?

Figures released this week by the Office for National Statistics point to a weaker than expected UK economic recovery, with a growth rate of just 0.2% in the second quarter of 2011. Many economists worry that the government’s rapid deficit reduction plan is having an adverse effect on economic performance. But, as we scrutinise the figures and scratch our heads over how best to grow the economy and compete globally, it’s also time to consider how we shape our education policy to meet future demands.

For years successive governments have placed education at the centre of their campaigns, to make the UK much more competitive. Under John Major’s leadership, education was highlighted as an area of focus in his Back to Basics campaign. Under Blair’s premiership this was reflected in the “education, education, education” mantra.

But as the former business secretary Lord Mandelson admitted in a BBC Newsnight interview this week, his and previous Governments got it wrong. Mandelson acknowledged that from “the 1980’s the entire government machine was geared to the belief that we in Britain can no-longer be an engineering, manufacturing, advance technology economy and when Labour came in 1997 they continued that policy too far, too much.”

Despite an expansion in the number of further and higher education places, it seems that very little has been done to change direction, reversing a policy bias against (STEM’s) Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. This might in part, help explain why our economic fortunes are now looking worrying.

To help shape future education policy and understand how best to grow our economy, the Pearson Centre for Policy and Learning is researching enterprise education. Through consultation with learners, businesses, education practitioners, stakeholders and government we aim to explore what it is, how can it be delivered and what might be the long-term benefits for people, the economy and society. This research will lead to a series of policy recommendations that will hopefully chart a better course for future economic growth. Only time and the quality of our research will reveal whether enterprise education can help the UK economy.

Monday, 18 July 2011

A summer working at Pearson!... Week one of the Pearson Diversity Programme

Increasingly we hear friends, family and media commentators remark on how difficult it is for young people leaving education to find a job in an increasingly crowded jobs market. I am one of the many who have found it difficult to secure long term gainful employment since leaving education.

As someone who got into university through a community college access course, I could honestly say its been much tougher than I anticipated, but no less rewarding in terms of my development and learning. The same can be said of my experience finding a job. Along the way one of the things I’ve discovered is that practical work based learning through work-placements has its merits. Over the last couple of months I have had to really apply myself, re-working my CV and cover letters applying for work placements, voluntary schemes and internships, all of which has helped me develop some of the work place skills employers need young people to have if they are to succeed in an ever changing world of work. 

So, here I am, week one of the Pearson Summer Diversity Internship Programme. It runs for eight weeks. That’s all, Gosh! Over the next eight weeks I will not only be learning about Pearson International but I will be involved in research on ‘Enterprise Education’ within the Pearson Centre for Policy and Learning. This will involve looking at the role teachers, the current schools’ curriculum, business community and government policy at a local and national level could play in helping young people develop competency based skills which leads to employment. Ok, there is a lot more to it than that. So you should follow this blog!

My aim through this blog over the period of the programme is to offer some insight into challenges of the projects I am involved with, in relation to Enterprise Education. It will also provide an insight into what its like being an intern within Pearson International and whether the support and training provided is reflective of the proposed ideas set out within the research proposal I’ll be working on.

Looking ahead, to the end of the programme I could see myself working within this organisation. I hope the internship will help me develop the skills that lead to a job, and maybe even within Pearson!

Pearson Summer internship programme

I am currently working within the Pearson Centre for Policy and Learning as a researcher on enterprise education. This is part of the Pearson Diversity Programme which offers new graduates from ethnic minority background the chance to develop new skills within the work place. During this time I will offer regular updates on my experiences as an intern working for an international respected organisation offering new and innovative ways of  learning to people the world over. I will also provide regular updates on the research project and its findings.