Skills and Employability- Andrew Battarbee

UVAC 2014- Skills and Employability- Why this agenda is of critical importance to the HE Sector

Andrew Battarbee, Deputy Director for Skills, BIS

The speaker introduced Andrew and apparently is a nice guy, very approachable and a friend of universities.

Andrew opened the session promising us that he will cover history, philosophy, business studies, geography and futurology. Intrigued!

History

Andrew also referenced the OECD report and confirms that England is an outlier in sub degree and really not comparative to Germanic countries, USA, Canada and Korea. Andrew gave an analogy of the England football team i.e. lots of running around and sweating without any real bite.

The legacy of this goes back to the Victorian era and then read some minutes from parliament in 1954…..very amusing but ultimately depressing in how we view technical and vocational career paths. Andrew suggested that there are some who believe it was wrong for polytechnics to become universities, he disagrees with this view but believes the polytechnics ‘left something’ behind.

The infrastructure and systems have enabled technical and vocational education to be forgotten about.

Philosophy

The system need to get behind better relationships between FE and HE with employers at the core, this can be done with Higher Apprenticeships and vocational degrees. Politicians need to forget about propagating parity of esteem between academic and vocational and get on with delivering the systems to deliver on action (my interpretation of what Andrew said).

Business Studies

Andrew gave us some statistics from technical industries and highlighted the fact that there was an impending crisis in terms of industries needing people with qualifications at Level 4 and above. He rolled off a litany of industries needing hundreds and thousands of technically able people.

Andrew challenged businesses to up their game and get engaged in taking control of their workforce development. They need to work smarter to develop apprenticeships fit for them and to engage with universities on negotiating bespoke solutions.

Geography

A short introduction on geography, he mentioned a devolution deal for Manchester on skills and allowing the city region to take control of local and regional needs. He expects this to be a repeated in other sectors albeit the impact may be indirect on universities.

Summary

Universities need to be more confident in what is right and wrong with the current system and use our influence to shape policy. Andrew summarised that whilst there is nuance between parties there is broad consensus on the industrial strategy and the importance of technical and vocational skills.

I was left encouraged by this talk and sensed an impending ‘tipping point’.

As a parent of 3 young kids I will certainly be supporting my kids following an alternative path!

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