Tuesday, 19 April 2016


The Institute of Directors (IoD) report 'Lifelong Learning: Reforming education for an age of technological and demographic change' was published this week and once again an influential group are challenging the current thinking about the curriculum, skills versus knowledge and understanding, careers guidance and the place and value of work experience. 

We are living in a time of major change in the labour market. A recent study by the Bank of England’s Chief Economist predicted that, over the next 20 years, 15 million jobs, or about half of the total, are at risk of being lost to automation. At the same time, many businesses are facing difficulty hiring qualified staff. The 2015 Employer Skills Survey found that almost one in four of the nearly one million current job vacancies in the UK are the result of a skills shortage, while the number of job vacancies unfilled because employers cannot find candidates with the appropriate skills has risen by 130% over the last five years. Demographic and technological changes are transforming the world of work and these changes increasingly place a premium on skills and character.

Employers and schools need to work together to prepare young people for the world of work and develop the skills businesses will need to compete in the face of intensifying competition and market volatility. As the fourth industrial revolution continues to radically alter the world of work, the report argues that reforming education and training is of vital importance. It stresses the fact that education policy is turning our schools into ‘exam factories’ which are still teaching method and recall, the easiest skills to automate. It highlights the problems employers are facing filling skills gaps and the problems young people are facing developing the skills that matter.

The report identifies these key areas where significant progress is needed to ensure that young people are prepared to succeed in this new economic landscape:
  • Schools must focus on the application of knowledge rather than simply the acquisition of it, and boost the level of 'soft' skills and character in young people. 
  • There should be an increased emphasis on coding and on STEM subjects to provide stronger foundations for the digital and creative revolution. 
  • There must be collaboration and partnerships between businesses and employers and schools and colleges to ensure that every school has high quality world of work programmes and access to independent careers education and guidance alongside employer coaching, mentoring and engagement for students. 
  • Students from the age of 13 onwards should experience multiple, high-quality experiences of the world of work so that they can learn from employers and be better informed and equipped to make the right choices to help achieve their future career aspirations 
  • Students must be supported to manage their own learning and determine the development of their own skills, meaning that one of the core functions of 21st-century schools will be teaching students how to learn for themselves. 
  • Students digital skills must be complemented by the development of character, critical thinking, evaluation and self-management. 
This fourth industrial revolution will bring significant challenges, but also huge opportunities. If the UK is to build a competitive economy for the 21st century, a shift to lifelong learning will be crucial to ensuring that young people have the skills, character and attributes they need to succeed in the world of work.

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