Iain Cameron's Diary
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2005-11-01 - 8:05 a.m.

Today the Government announced which four Skills Academies would get funding in the first round of development - the one that we have an interest in is one of the lucky four. It will be interesting to see what happens next. In 2004 the focus was on what skills are needed for increase competitiveness - a subject which I had (and have) quite strong views on - but since then the focus has moved to capacity building to deliver those skills. The Academies are the most salient aspect of that shift - and I am mainly interested in just one of the skills areas now- supply chain management.

To enable an expansion of vocational training without having the agony it had over financing higher education expansion, the Government wants employers to buy more from FE Colleges. The Academies are intended to help that happen. - to help colleges improve the quality of their offering so that employers are prepared to stump up.

Actually, I am also interested in the skillset which means that new product introduction works better - but I am not really in a strong position to have much effect on how the FE curriculum develops on that. My focus has shifted down to schools and in particular the relevance of design and technology. I have been refining the basis of the Learning Grid pitch in these terms. As I see it the LG helps D&T fulfil the utopian potential which many think that it possesses - by providing a practical platform for collaboration between business, schools and Govt Depts.

Steve and I were kicking the ball around on this and we concluded that this platform plays well at the European level - especially in the light of that event I went to in Brussels last month. The event was a consensus celebration between the Commission and the auto supply chain (in its European manifestation) - but the LG sits at the centre of gravity of that consensus. Its fine to say as an abstract goal that schools and manufacturing need to get closer together - knowing how to do that in practical terms is the hard bit. I sorted out my hotel booking for the euro-conference in Derby where we will make that pitch hard.

Steve was at Silverstone at the weekend with 400 undergrads who are in this yearís Formula Student and the questionnaire we developed last week was rolling out. Apparently we will have some data back from this later this week. Steve is going to be in Detroit before Christmas (am I jealous or what?) and we talked about what might be achieved with the US organization which owns FS and is based there. I fixed up a meeting next week with Oxford Brookes who are going to the US to compete with their car. We also sorted out the chargeable time on these various forays.

I mentioned to Steve that this week the Economist featured an article by a US economist from Havard on growth theory - I have been puzzling away at it today - the point seems to be that the US has been growing faster than Europe because it invests more of its GDP in higher education - about twice as much in fact. But these investments donít happen by themselves of course - they depend on decisions by lots of different actors and agencies and changes are very sensitive politically. The balance between investment in FE and HE is a bit of an issue too. The Germans have been big FE investors but this article suggests that this formula may no longer be effective.
A new car has arrived - unlike the one I had last week which was white, this one is black. It runs on petrol rather than diesel.

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