STEM Foundation

The Wolf Report - NEF Position

 

News Release

 

Date 04.03.2011

Vocational education think-tank and charity,New Engineering Foundation, welcomes the Review of Vocational Education – The Wolf Report.

NEF recognises that there is much to applaud in the long-awaited Wolf Report. First and foremost vocational training should be prized for being fit for purpose while dud qualifications should be removed. Secondly, there should be a focus on innovation and employer’s needs in curricula development and the freedom for colleges to work with employers and to take account of future needs in defining it. And thirdly, the Government should be seen as a high-level funder and regulator but NOT a micro-manager and prescriber. To quote Michael Gove, the Wolf Report “is ground-breaking” - and some of the ground will be very hard and very much worth breaking.

In the last 7 years NEF has supported over 300 colleges and impacted over 320,000 learners has been advocating many of the views outlined in the Report. The Foundation is pleased to see the Report recognises that the future prosperity of the UK depends on building an advanced economy founded on high-level technical skills. However, the key question for us is whether the Report will have real and lasting impact on the STEM agenda, which it does touch, if briefly. For instance, Low carbon technology is growing apace and more jobs with new STEM skills will be needed to make it work. Thus, incentives that cause colleges to scan the horizon for future needs and generate the skills that will be needed for future prosperity, should be considered.

In supporting the ‘what’ of the Report, The Foundation will want to work with policy makers, industry and colleges to help work on the ‘how’:

  • National priorities like STEM are hard to reconcile with the shift of focus from government-imposed requirements to local employers and colleges shaping qualifications. How do we prevent a surplus of employer-relevant high-quality skills in one area (e.g. hairdressing) and a shortage in another (e.g. engineering?). 
  • How will ‘future-proofing’ qualifications actually work? The incentive to ‘invent the future’ with innovative companies and provide the appropriate qualifications is welcomed but will be a challenge.
  • Leaner regulation - of Awarding Bodies rather than regulating qualifications – is to be welcomed, but the process needs to avoid creating a new bureaucracy of validation and verification.

The key to resolving these matters lies in the capacity of local leaders to respond to the needs both of young people and employers - and of the nation. The New Engineering Foundation is well-placed to help them do so, with an impressive track record of such support that would be enhanced by enacting many of the recommendations of the Wolf Report. This will foster the vital drive for innovation, “intelligent colleges” and the civic leadership much needed in our society.

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