Tag Archives: skills development

Digging deeper into No. 1 of Paddy’s Dangerous Ideas

I think the time has come for us to do a lot more with No. 1 of Paddy’s Dangerous Ideas.

We persist in the medieval practice of taking students to medieval ivy-covered buildings, to receive their education in the medieval manner from minds, too many of which, when it comes to delivering education, are stuck in the middle ages. Yet distance learning was pioneered in Britain at the Open University when communicating with your tutor meant stuffing your academic paper in an envelope, licking it, sticking a stamp on it and putting it in the local post-box.

Today the whole planet is into distance learning. Many of our own Universities make tons of money providing distance learning degree courses to students all over the world. But none of them are in Britain! If we were to convert at least part of our tertiary education syllabus to distance learning we might reduce the cost of degrees without diminishing their quality, give students more flexibility, force lecturers into the modern age, widen access and create a superb platform for adult education all at the same time.

Why, beloved Lib Dems, do we allow medieval vested interests to preserve our ivy-covered tertiary education system exactly as it is, loading more and more debt on students and preventing us from doing what much of the rest of the world is doing already? Just asking?

This idea has come back to me in North Devon. A local councillor in South Molton, not realising that it was one of Paddy’s Dangerous Ideas, spoke to me at length about how wonderful the Open University was. How in places like North Devon, where there are no universities, and a real lack of opportunity to advance skills, one can still access the Open University and get a degree. He asked me, how can we build on this model and enable everyone in North Devon to upskill and train?

I am suggesting that one of our best ways of honouring Paddy is to bring some of his Dangerous Ideas into fruition.

Let’s champion life-long learning, as Vince has promoted, by building online learning platforms so that people, whether they live in North Devon or in Shetland, can achieve the same level of accreditation and training as those who live in cities. Let’s put in place 21st-century methods of education, and not be stuck in the medieval model of tutorials and physical lectures.

We have a real opportunity to lead here and I think it is a fantastic opportunity for us. Promoting virtual education is education-for-all, not just those who can take time off for university or afford three years of tuition without working at the same time.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , and | 26 Comments

Opinion: Liberal Democrats must prioritise skills development

One of the depressing facts that came out from last week’s Joseph Rowntree Foundation report on poverty is that only 1 in 5 of low paid employees have left low paid work completely ten years later.  Also in the news recently were reports of severe staffing shortages of skilled staff in several sectors including construction and health/social care, leading to major recruitment drives overseas.   There is a real problem with skills development in the UK.

There are several reasons for this.  Since the recession companies have cut back on investment, and that includes training.  The increase in outsourcing in our public services has had an impact; some private providers have good long term training programmes, whereas others take a much more short term approach, particularly if they are fighting to win government contracts on cost. Another cause is the rise in self-employment – 15% of the UK working population is now self-employed compared to 13% in 2008.  Many of these self-employed are rehired to their original organisations but without many of the benefits including a training budget.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , and | 19 Comments
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