In its recent White Paper, the UK Government has rightly highlighted the importance of lifelong learning and skills.
This is particularly pertinent as we start to rebuild the many parts of both our local and wider economies, following the devastating impact of a global pandemic.
To do this effectively it is clear that improved technical, vocational and professional learning has to be put at the heart of any strategy, to ensure that people have the right training and skills in the right sectors.
And this is exactly what we are focusing on here at the Guernsey Institute having merged three successful organisations together – the GTA University Centre, the Institute of Health and Social Care Services and the Guernsey College of Further Education.
In addition, we have been approved as a Career College by the Career Colleges Trust. The first to open in the Channel Islands, we join a UK network of over 20 FE institutions, which focus on preparing young people for great careers, in sectors where there are skills demands.
Working closely with employers is central to the Government’s strategy and we are absolutely aware of how important this is. But the key to any employer engagement strategy is ensuring that businesses themselves recognise the value of partnership work with an educator and complete buy into it.
This is where we know that joining the Career Colleges’ network will add value to both our organisation and our wider community. Although employment in Guernsey is traditionally high, like other Island nations we are at risk of a skills drain as young people move to other places, taking their skills with them.
With finance, hospitality and healthcare sectors offering huge opportunity here, we need to ensure that we can provide the pipeline of skills that will be needed in the years ahead. Working closely with industry is the best way to predict and plan for this need – to help ensure that our businesses can continue to flourish and continue to offer a vast array of opportunity for our Island community.
To do this, we need to firstly ensure that our course and curriculum content is relevent and exactly what employers need. Creating and developing strong partnerships with local and national employers will support this, ensuring our students have the exposure and opportunity to the real world of work, both during and after their time at college.
But we must also consider the way we deliver education. Flexible options are needed to support people to learn in non-traditional ways, something the pandemic has shown us to be achievable. This can be via high quality online learning as well as offering a variety of part time options for people who have family and work commitments – and need to study in a different way.
Enhanced practical and project-based learning helps people to develop the real-life employment skills they need. This is a key part of the Career Colleges model which we know is so important when it comes to ensuring people are work-ready.
Technology within the classroom is also supporting us to close the physical gap between ourselves here in the Channel Islands and other innovative colleges around the UK, which have a similar vision to ours. Sharing best practice and encouraging our students to interact with peers in different geographical locations is essential if we are to open up minds, drive ambition and achieve career success.
The education landscape has changed dramatically over the last few years, with technology changing the way we live and learn. The Government is right to put skills and jobs at the heart of FE, with a renewed spotlight on the longer-term aim of education (ie: a person’s career) rather than just the gaining of a qualification (ie: education for education’s sake.)
Our organisation’s ambition is absolutely aligned with the Government’s vision for FE. We are focused on the innovation and change that is needed to meet the new demands from our changing, post-Covid economy – which will undoubtedly offer exciting and new opportunities for our entire community.