The systematic creation of new and better apprenticeships, including the commitment of the public sector, was cited as one of the key pillars of a fundamentally better economy and better society by Andrew Adonis, labour peer and former education minister and transport secretary in a visit to a Devon further education college last week.
Lord Adonis – noted for his controversial support for Michael Gove and academies – was opening Exeter College's new £8.5million pound Technology Centre in front of business and education partners as well as staff and students and he was critical of the role the public sector and his own former department had played in supporting aspirations of young people.
"We will not crack this problem of the underperformance of our youngsters, really serious youth unemployment, big problems of youngsters not getting the jobs and not developing the skills they need unless we systematically create a strong apprentice route in both the private and public sector." Noting that many of the worst offenders in creating apprenticeships are in the public sector, he used his former Department of Education as an example saying "it is not acceptable that out of a headquarters staff of several thousands there are only 14 apprentices with only 3 under the age of 21".
Praising the transformational partnerships between employers and education that the Technology Centre in Exeter College was supporting he went on to say "We need to change and we need all our major employers to take part. But that will only happen if we have opportunities for them, and partnerships with training providers such as the outstanding college in Exeter, that make it much easier than in the past for employers to create apprenticeships and where they can see a clear and early return in terms of the skills of the young people being translated into productive work in a job. "Describing the new facility as a meeting point between employers and education Adonis went on to note that not only was the college creating huge opportunities for young people through the new centre but was also part of a "national move to completely re-engage in a new way employers as a whole with the education system and the youth of the country."
"This completely new centre symbolizes all we need to do in our national economy if we are going to keep up with the Chinese, these huge and dynamic emerging markets and this great global competition. This sums up all that is brilliant in developments in modern further education, modern business leadership in terms of helping to generate skills and aspirations for young people."
Lord Adonis joined business leaders and representatives of employers in the local area for a tour of the state-of the art building located in the east of the city where facilities include light vehicle, MOT and HGV workshops, machine shop, diagnostics and computer aided design labs and IT suites.
The impact of the centre's location was also heralded as important in linking the education and business community with its key position noted by Richard Atkins, principal of the college as"where the future of Exeter is in business terms, with the Growth Point, Science Park and Skypark developments".
Atkins, who is also a Commissioner on the Commission for Adult and Vocational Teaching and Learning noted that the country's leading skills and trainings centres, such as the Rolls Royce centre in Derby provide industrial standard training facilities and suggested that young people and adults were best motivated by dual qualified staff, by facilities that mirrored the highest industry standards and by real work and real challenges "With staff who are experienced and qualified in their own trades as well as in teaching, it feels like the real world of work and when you talk about the challenge of motivating young people and adults, facilities of this kind are going to make a real difference."
Concluding his spirited talk before talking to students around the centre Adonis noted"What you are doing here, if we replicate it in community by community, nationwide will lead to a much better, more successful, more prosperous and more socially cohesive society."
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