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Take-off for new Commission on vocational learning

Vocational learning Comissioners meet with employees
A new independent Commission, aimed at getting the best out of adult vocational teaching, has met for the first time – starting, as it means to go on, at the sharp end of the learning environment – the workplace.

The Commission on Adult Vocational Teaching and Learning has gathered together experts in the world of vocational learning. It began its ‘non-traditional’ approach to the challenge of improving the quality and impact of vocational teaching and learning practice by holding its first meeting at the end of June at one of the UK’s leading exponents of vocational teaching and learning – BAE Systems’ Military Air & Information business, which has its main manufacturing and training facilities in Lancashire.

Frank McLoughlin CBE, Chair of the Commission, and Principal of City and Islington College, said: “This is a Commission about the future – of people, of businesses, the economy and society. With the support of major employers, it reflects the further education and skills sector’s ambition to support the success of learners and employers by developing a new generation of ‘home grown’ talent and highly skilled technicians to drive our future prosperity.”  

On Wednesday 11 July the Commission was formally launched by the Skills Minister, John Hayes, at Farringdon Station, London. The venue was chosen as it is the location of a major railway engineering and construction project and a prime example of the diverse range of the vocational skills that will be needed to lay the foundations for future growth.  .

Prior to the launch in London, the commissioners met for the first time at BAE Systems, hosted by Nigel Whitehead, Group Managing Director of the Programmes & Support business within BAE Systems and a former Managing Director of the Military Air & Information business

He said: “As a former apprentice myself and someone who is deeply passionate about the value of vocational training, I am honoured to host this first meeting of the Commission here at BAE Systems where members can see for themselves the training we are engaged in and talk frankly and face to face with those who are benefiting from it.”

During the first of what will be many visits to learning locations and workplaces across the country, the commissioners reflected on the value of positive role models for apprentices from amongst their peers and instructors and also from senior management. In the case of BAE Systems, a significant number of senior managers started themselves as apprentices.

Mr Whitehead, an industrial ambassador for the Commission, as well as a  member of the UK Commission for Employment & Skills, told the inaugural meeting of the group that the trainees and managers they were meeting in Lancashire were responsible, along with other colleagues in the BAE Systems business, for putting together some of the most complex machines on the planet - without exception.

He said: “As a custodian of critical skills for the defence of the Realm, we have to take a strategic and long term view and plan for the future. We also have to take an agile and responsive approach to workforce skills planning, to the education system supply chain, to early career development, and to through-life career development. It all starts with knowledge and skills and no-one should underestimate the value of investing in those elements of the business.”

BAE Systems invested £83m in 2011 in skills development within its UK businesses and it remains the UKs largest employer of skilled engineers. The 15 commissioners who visited the company’s facilities talked at length to both apprentices at the business’s Preston Training Facility and to graduates and higher-apprentices at the company’s Typhoon Final Assembly Facility at Warton.