By Lea Pachta

In the current economic climate, the UK’s future of education is both a political and cultural minefield. Bold moves urgently need to be taken to create a working population with the right skills needed to fight our way out of the recession and help grow the country’s economy into the next decade. Recent government figures reveal that one in five young people between the ages of 16 and 24 are currently not in education, employment or training (NEETs) raising some very pertinent questions.

Are educational establishments providing students with the relevant skills needed to make them employable?; and, are the different opportunities for this age group – FE, Sixth forms, HE and work-based training — closely enough aligned to meet each others’ needs?

Today’s digital native students automatically expect their learning experience to be complemented or even driven by the effective use of technology. Consequently, institutions have invested heavily in virtual learning environments to enhance the student experience, including their social and intellectual development.

However, are people missing a trick by not exploiting this technology to help create and operate partnerships that are effective in facilitating and encouraging life-long learning opportunities for everyone regardless of their qualifications when they left school or college or university?

Blackboard, Qualified to Comment:

Blackboard is a global leader in educational technology in both FE and HE and is well placed to comment on how fostering close partnerships between FE colleges, universities and employers will help to create an employee base ‘fit for purpose’.

• Online technology can be harnessed to promote mutually beneficial partnerships between FE colleges, universities and industry and is a way for FE colleges, sixth forms and universities to add extra value to their courses at minimal cost.
• City of Sunderland College is working in partnership with Blackboard and NPower to deliver an Advanced Project Management training course to NPower employees in the North East of the UK, helping to overcome the local skills gap to the benefit of both NPower and the area as a whole.
• Business has a key role to play in influencing and shaping the educational curriculum — institutions such as Kingston University are bringing in industrial liaison groups to ensure students completing their courses have the appropriate skills to find graduate employment rather than becoming another government NEET statistic.