As a sector, further education devotes a considerable amount of time and thought to the question of how we can best ensure that we are equipping learners with the knowledge and skills they will need in rapidly evolving workplaces.
Why wouldn’t we? We recognise the rapid pace of technological change, we understand the imperative for our learners to be employable, and we do our utmost to ensure that our part of the education system responds to those factors by providing a learning experience that equips individuals with work-relevant skills.
To achieve that aim, we must ensure that FE is seamlessly interwoven with the world of work. This partnership must be symbiotic, with the co-production and co-delivery of the curriculum driving its evolution to meet current and future needs. It also requires a rapid reaccreditation cycle to maximise the currency of qualifications.
T levels can deliver up-to-date workplace skills
That sounds good in theory, of course, but it is extremely difficult to achieve in practice. No country does it excellently, and the administrative, logistical and cultural challenges of doing it in the UK have proven to be considerable, although the early signs from T levels are encouraging.
Even more fundamentally, though, this approach can never reach its destination and is constantly running to catch up. Even if it works excellently, the progress of technological change means that by the time a curriculum is embedded and qualifications are accredited and staff are trained to teach them, they are in need of updating. This is not just an issue in sectors that see the most rapid scientific and technological change; it can affect sectors like education and care, too.
The difficulty of establishing the kind of relationship required, and maintaining the pace required of it when we can, suggest an alternative answer. What if education shouldn’t attempt to keep up with technological change?