The Great Divide

 

The Great DivideSince October 2010 we’ve been pleased to be able to lend our professional support to many local secondary school children within our area as part of a scheme to bring commerce into the classroom amongst the 13 to 18 year age groups. Introducing mentors from a wide range of companies at this stage can help to influence the students’ choice of subjects at GCSE or their thoughts of a career. 

Led by the session facilitator, businesses like ours work with between six and sixteen students to: coach them on interview techniques, introduce practical examples from our industries, work with them on a series of case studies and give short lectures about our professions. What is pleasing and makes these regular sessions all the more worthwhile is that based on reports from the facilitators, teaching staff and students, these events linking education to commerce are well received and do much to prepare students for new challenges beyond full-time education. 

In addition to working with school students, I also lend my personal and professional support as a local advisory board (LAB) member to Warwickshire College’s A-Level Career Academy. This national scheme provides another level of mentoring to those young people who have left school at 16, don’t intend to go to university and don’t want this to hamper their chances of securing a fulfilling career.

As a mentor across both of the above roles, my job is to simply advise and inspire students so they can make informed choices.

However, having visited the Skills Show at the NEC Birmingham this month (Oct 2013) to review the opportunities for young people, I do feel some concern about the type of training within the workplace. In the paper ‘FE Week – edition 81’, it stated that “Around 95% of the adult vocational markets, 19,000+ qualifications could be axed under radical proposals to ‘de-clutter the system’, FE Week can reveal. The move, put forward by BAE Systems group managing director, Nigel Whitehead, in a review requested by the Skills Minister Matthew Hancock, would leave just ‘hundreds’ of qualifications”. So it appears that training courses aren’t always as effective as they could be, particularly in the sphere of vocational qualifications?

Putting to one side the obvious waste of financial resources, there are other considerations too, namely that this excessive choice results in delayed enrolment or worse enrolling on the wrong course; psychologist Barry Schwartz terms this the ‘paradox of choice’. Any marketer will be aware of the reasons why you would present an audience with a simple or complex choice but they would also know that such decisions can often delay decision and create dissatisfaction, it’s a careful balance, and on the subject of training the authorities appear to have got this very wrong.

As well as being a student mentor I’m also a father to secondary school boys and a godfather to a college graduate so I’m all in favour of better training if it benefits employees and the companies they work for. If this increases the value in UK PLC then we will have all done our bit to help. But if these ‘unnecessary courses’ only add layers of confusion, doing more to bolster the profits of the training companies and less about the needs of the employee, then it’s absolutely right and proper that those in authority take decisive action to clean-up the system.

Under the guidance of those that know what their audience needs I am perfectly happy to contribute my time as best I can it’s such a shame that many private training providers aren’t also guided by the industries that they serve? Perhaps if they were we could eliminate the great divide so that early mentoring and later vocational training become part of a cohesive approach to any individual’s training needs?

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