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ref date:06 Jan 2002 (EDU)
British Industry director meddling in Scottish education system

The director of the CBI (the confederation of British) industry is busy sticking his nose into the devolved issue of Scottish education. There is a case to introduce more 'hi-tech' training, but why bother when ALL INTERNET RELATED ACTIVITIES AND DATA ENCRYPTION IS REGULATED BY LONDON. Scotland can only do as London allows it and will not be able to grow a dynamic Electronic economy without Westminsters blessing

Iain McMillan (director CBI said......)
LAST December, Cathy Jamieson, Scottish executive Minister for Education and Young People, announced that she would launch a national debate into the future of education in Scotland in March 2002.

I very much welcomed this announcement because there is an urgent need for all with an interest in education - parents, students, employers, educators and the Scottish executive - to build a national consensus on what state-funded education should achieve for Scotland in the digital global economy of the future.

Clearly, employers have a vital interest in this debate because the delivery of a well-educated pool of future employees and entrepreneurs is essential to Scotland’s future business competitiveness and success. Without this, our country will not be able to reach its full potential and produce the employment and investment needed for our public services.

Our education sector must increasingly deliver young people, who are fit for purpose in the workplace, whatever their intellectual abilities

Now there are those who believe there is more to education than simply preparing young people for the world of work. Education, it is sometimes argued, should exist principally to develop the mind and be concerned with intellectual matters. And there are those, mercifully a vociferous minority, who appear to disagree with the business community’s demands in respect of the outputs of education and scorn the engagement of business leaders in the debate. But I do not believe there is any real conflict of objectives here.

Of course, those who argue that education must deliver more than the needs of employers are right. And in any case, businesses today are managed and developed by brainpower. So the intellectual development of young people is vital. But alongside that, our education sector must increasingly deliver young people, who are fit for purpose in the workplace, whatever their intellectual abilities. So there does need to be a very significant element of education for work and enterprise in our schools.

In this regard, there should be no distinction between a youngster likely to leave school at 16 with minimum qualifications or a child on the way to university and a good degree. The ultimate destination of almost all students is the workplace, whether direct from school or through further and higher education.

With the introduction of our new National Qualifications, Scotland is more advanced than almost any other country in the world in delivering a comprehensive framework of national qualifications. Certainly, further work is required to reduce unnecessary costs and bureaucracy surrounding assessment. But this needs to be done in a way which does not interfere with the framework or the National Qualifications’ founding principles.

And the creation of the new Careers Scotland is a positive development too. The coming together of the old Careers Service with Scotland’s Education Business Partnerships should bring renewed focus and energy to the education for work agenda and give further impetus to the active involvement of business in the delivery of education.

But we need to go further. This was recognised by the Scottish executive last year when Jack McConnell and Wendy Alexander announced the setting up of a review of education for work and enterprise under the Deputy Minister for Education and Young People, Nicol Stephen. I welcome this review and very much hope that it will deliver what business needs of Scottish education and set the agenda for this year’s education debate.

ADMITTEDLY over the past 10 years education for work and enterprise has become more widespread. Partnerships between business and education have become more meaningful and trust between the two sectors has grown.

The Stephen Review now provides an opportunity to establish accurately how far things have actually progressed and to build on these gains. Then to develop a more clearly focused national strategy to achieve goals built on consensus. It will be challenging but I believe that, to be successful, the national strategy must achieve four key goals:

• Education for work and enterprise must become embedded in the curriculum from five to 18 and beyond, with opportunities for enterprise education for all young people at various stages throughout education

• Broad agreement should be generated around one set of employability characteristics - an employability template - which should be recognised and adopted by education and business as a shared goal for all young people and those already in the job market

• The effectiveness of education for work and enterprise should be measured by determining its impact on young people and their employability

• All education for work and enterprise must be quality assured.

Clearly, all of this will need to be introduced into teachers’ training and continuing professional development. And HM Inspectors of Education will have a key role in measuring impact and assessing quality. But the starting point must be to build a broad consensus around the employability template and agree the core qualities and competencies that make up employability. I would argue that they should be as follows:

• Attitudes compatible with work opportunities such as a desire to learn, to apply that learning, to improve and take advantage of change and to make a difference

• Values such as honesty and personal integrity

• The basic skills of literacy and basic numeracy

• The defined core skills of communication, numeracy, IT, working with others and problem-solving

• Customer service skills

• Relevant job specific skills and knowledge

• The ability to manage one’s own career.

These core qualities and competencies should be developed in every young person going through our schools in Scotland. There is no case for them to be developed in some of our young people and not in others.

The argument which is sometimes advanced that all of these competencies do not apply to bright young people on the fast track to university does not hold water. They are needed by all in the workplace, or aspiring to the workplace, whatever an individual’s intellectual ability and exit level from school, further or higher education.

This year’s education debate is timely and one in which Scotland’s business leaders must participate. Only then will we ensure that the direction and content of Scottish education delivers for business, for students and for Scotland as a whole.

• Iain McMillan is the director of CBI Scotland.