January 30, 2008

McA-Levels

Dave Osler I think is wrong to rebuke the government at Liberal Conspiracy over its latest wheeze to allow major companies to train their workers and receive qualifications worth as much as A-Levels: he fears a polytechnisation of the new qualifications- I can see where he is coming from but disagree. The degrees and A-Levels could work as described here- as effectively qualifications in management. There is nothing wrong with such a qualification- indeed if done well it could lead to jobs in the future- there are management schools afterall now and I can't really see why this wouldn't be a build up to one of those schools.

Where I think the government are wrong is in giving this to the companies to run. Not because there is anything wrong with company run training, but because the reputation of any courses will rest on the reputation of the companies concerned. The real issue here is that what you need is something you see in other branches of the economy. I'm thinking in particular of law and accountancy. In those two proffessions outside bodies regulate professional qualifications and they are well respected, whatever happens to the companies involved. I think that's a much better way of proceeding and it avoids another criticism that people might just be trained in company specific knowledge. What you really need is an association of catering management that say the big catering companies funded and was independent of government but respected by them all: so MacDonalds, Wetherspoons or even just those who had received the degree contributed. I do see that as being a way forward in the way that I don't see these present proposals being a perfect way forward.

I think though Dave underrates the importance of lifelong training here. The Leitch report on Skills revealed a lot about the nature of skills in the UK population: I'm not sure about some of the bolder predictions and the bases for them but I can see that this kind of skills training isn't a bad thing. Particularly because not everyone can succeed at school- for many people 16 or 17 isn't the right age to succeed, they aren't ready for it or interested in it and its only later in their twenties that they can succeed. That's particularly true for kids with learning difficulties: I know someone who is a chef at a Wetherspoons because he dropped out of school because of dyslexia, he would be perfect for one of these programs. He has the ability but lacks the confidence and its precisely that person that the government scheme with these companies is intended to attract. I would tweak it so as to make it run independently of the companies- but I do think in principle this is a good idea particularly for those who don't have a good experience of the education system and consequently don't fancy facing an educative institution again, be it a school, night school or the Open University.

Done well this could be a real success- done badly and with too much government control it could fail- but I think it could work particularly if these courses separate themselves eventually from the companies and become courses say at the Institute of Catering Management which companies invite people to apply for. I think it could work and if it did it would be great for many people who the education system fails but who have as much talent as those for whom the education system works. There will always be people, because of the key fact that we don't all grow in the same way at the same times, nor as we find out who we are do we all find relating to authority easy, who get left behind and feel very sceptical about education. This seems to me to be a very good move to get those people back on some kind of education wagon: and done well could be a real boon.

5 comments:

Bretwalda Edwin-Higham said...

It's the old story of corporate patronage - the business world is vibrant and active and the public sector just goes along.

Gracchi said...

I'm not so sure about that James

Ruthie said...

Please forgive my ignorance, but what are A levels?

Gracchi said...

Damn it I'm an idiot! Sorry Ruthie- A-Levels are the British qualification that you do just before you go to university- they are what you do when you are 18. Basically most people end up doing three A-Levels in three subjects (for interest's sake I did English, history and Maths and a half-A-level (an AS level) in Ancient Greek) and your grades determine which university you get into and often which jobs you can apply for afterwards. There are exams before them which you take when you are 16 called GCSEs and most people when I did them took 10- including three sciences, a humanity, a language, English and Maths.

Ruthie said...

That's very different from the U.S. system. We get a high school diploma and then take standardized tests like the SAT and ACT to encourage schools to accept us. The scores don't have any bearing on getting a job, though...

I think you're right that the educational system is working too narrowly. It sounds like a lot rides on these qualifications, even after university.