October Blog

Posted on 11th October 2011.

Presidents Blog


Some considerable time has elapsed since I last wrote a blog. It is not because I have been short of something to say, quite the opposite. It has just been a very busy period.

At the beginning of October BACH’s NEC attended World Skills at the Excel in London. It was a great pleasure to see students working at the top end of their skills from all over the World. It was impressive to see the levels of concentration and how seriously winning meant to them all.

It was equally pleasing to see the number of Primary School Children visiting the Competition and enjoying themselves, even if sitting in a £150,000 Bentley car or racing small electric cars around a circuit with six other children was their real interest. What I hope is that they will have seen beyond the glossy image of the various exhibitors and given thought to the importance of building a Bentley or seeing that our leadership in formula 1 racing comes from having world class engineers.

The Competition was a resounding success for the UK. We cameFifth in the medal tables improving by two places since our performance in Calgary in 2009. This was a momentous occasionand yet the coverage by the national media was conspicuous by its absence. What is it that we have to do to get Vocational Education recognised as being of paramount importance to the UKs economy?

BACH played its part and wrote to the Secretary of State, the BBC and other influential bodies. BACH even responded to a request to nominate members whom had been through the system and could act as role models for a television interview. To my knowledge these individuals were not invited to participate. I spoke to Chris Humphries (CEO for UK Skills) at the Excel Centre as he was meeting and greeting the VIPs. I asked him to support those UK students getting a Gold Medal to be put forward for an Honour in either the Queen’s birthday or New Year’s list. It will be interesting to see who gets recognition for our successful performance.

The cuts in Colleges budgets continues to take its toll and many Institutions are in the process of reorganising again. I sometimes wonder if this helps or hinders performance. Staff become so involved in worrying about how the changes will affect them that they become distracted. Change can be good for any organisation but it should only come about where the case proves it will ad value. We know from our members that many Construction Departments are being absorbed into Engineering structures. In real terms it doesn’t matter where Construction sits in an organisational structure, what does matter is staff stay focussed on giving the students the best chance for  their future working career.

Thinking about HE students makes me want to shout at the Radio every time they mention tuition fees. I can name many colleagues in FE who funded their entire post 16 education themselves. Many students studying for their degree with the Open University pay for themselves and do not complain so why is there such a fuss for this privileged group of individuals, many of whom come from middle class families who could afford to pay a contribution. We would all love to see free education for all but the nation needs to make money from its goods and services to pay or good public services. As we spend more that we currently earn on our trading account we have to make tough decisions. My preference is to put resources into the early years education so that all young people regardless of background are given the best start in life.

Of course not everyone agrees but where would you take it from to help students avoid having to make a contribution when they earn over £21,000 per annum?

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