Functional Skills is an important qualification for learners and employers, and the reforms that are currently in process will increase their relevance further – that was a key message at The Skills Conference, which welcomed over 400 education professionals from around the UK on 7 March.
Dame Asha Khemka, Principal and Chief Executive at West Nottinghamshire College, set the scene for the conference, which is hosted by award-winning company bksb, by reiterating just how important English and maths skills are in any walk of life. She also touched on the additional funding that will become available to post-16 providers in 2019 as part of the government’s drive to improve technical training.
As Sue Southwood (Education and Training Foundation) addressed delegates as part of her keynote speech, she acknowledged that the aims of Functional Skills qualifications will stay the same post reform, and outlined the Foundation’s plans to support practitioners through the period of change. Much of her sentiment was echoed by Ofqual’s representative at the event, Naomi Nicholson, who highlighted the fact that Functional Skills is already an extremely popular qualification with over 800,000 taken last year alone. She also talked of the challenges of managing the comparability of standards for Functional Skills across awarding organisations, which is a real priority for Ofqual. The general consensus from delegates was that it is extremely positive that both the Education and Training Foundation and Ofqual are pulling in the same direction, to improve and reform Functional Skills.
The following two keynote speeches were all about learner engagement. Firstly Joseph Valente, winner of the BBC’s The Apprentice in 2015, told delegates all about his difficult journey from excluded student, to apprentice, to successful entrepreneur, and thanked the sector for the role it played in helping to achieve success and give him the key skills he needed to succeed. Bob Craig then took to the stage to highlight the importance of igniting curiosity and building resilience in learners.
The final keynote speech was given by AELP Chief Executive Mark Dawe, who stressed his belief that maths and English skills are the most important skills for employment. He also stated that AELP members and employers like, and want, Functional Skills qualifications to remain at the forefront of skills training.
The afternoon sessions saw delegates attend best practice workshops and informative seminars from high profile organisations including Mercedes-Benz, JISC, The Manchester College and Learning Curve, and during breaks, leading education suppliers were on hand to offer their advice and services.
bksb Managing Director, Harvinder Atwal, said: “English, maths and ICT skills are so important in every single corner of society. Educational success and career progression rely on these skills, and we believe that Functional Skills and GCSEs are rightly positioned at the forefront of the Government education agenda. The incredible turnout at The Skills Conference, once again, shows the desire of practitioners to innovate and share knowledge, and bksb is delighted that The Skills Conference provides a forum to facilitate this.”