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Work starts for the Commission on Adult Vocational Teaching and Learning

Commissioners met for the first time in Lancashire at the end of June - starting, as they mean to go on, seeing vocational learning in action and talking to learners and their tutors about their experiences.

The first meeting of the Commission was hosted by Nigel Whitehead, Group Managing Director of the Programmes & Support business within BAE Systems and himself a former Managing Director of the Military Air & Information business.

He said: "As a former apprentice myself and someone who is deeply passionate about the value of vocational training, I am honoured to host this first meeting of the Commission here at BAE Systems where members can see for themselves the training we are engaged in and talk frankly and face to face with those who are benefiting from it."

Frank McLoughlin CBE, Chair of the Commission and Principal of City and Islington College has insisted this will be a different type of Commission:

‘This will not be a traditional Westminster-based commission. We will go into workplaces, into colleges, on to farms. I am keen for this Commission to be innovative and inclusive in its approach, and to reflect the diverse interests of learners, employers and the whole further education and skills sector.

‘We will be taking account of learners’ and employers’ views throughout our work and it will be important for us to take evidence from the whole range of providers and practitioners, learning from effective practice in colleges and private training providers.’

The confidence, commitment and pride of all the apprentices at BAE Systems was an inspiration to the commissioners as they began their work to articulate the characteristics of effective vocational teaching and learning.

Reflecting on their learning from the visit with the help of Professor Lorna Unwin, Chair in Vocational Education and Deputy Director of the LLAKES Research Centre at the Institute of Education, University of London, commissioners highlighted the value of positive role models for apprentices – from amongst their peers, their instructors and also the senior management at BAE Systems, many of whom themselves started as apprentices.

Nigel Whitehead, an Industrial Ambassador on the Commission, as well as a Member of the UK Commission for Employment & Skills, told the inaugural meeting of the group that the trainees and managers they were meeting in Lancashire were responsible, along with other colleagues in the BAE Systems business, for putting together some of the most complex machines on the planet - without exception.

He said: "As a custodian of critical skills for the defence of the Realm, we have to take a strategic and long term view and plan for the future. We also have to take an agile and responsive approach to workforce skills planning, to the education system supply chain, to early career development, and to through-life career development. It all starts with knowledge and skills and no-one should underestimate the value of investing in those elements of the business."

Commissioners also discussed their priorities for future visits, which will include working to understand how the characteristics of vocational teaching and learning differ according to the sector, stage and level involved, and the environment where learning takes place. Visits to a further education college and a small work-based training provider are planned. There will also be opportunities to consider how to support the development of higher level technical skills at Rolls-Royce, and to explore – with the Princes Trust and other third sector organisations - how vocational teaching and learning can support young adults for whom making the transition to working life is challenging.

Read BAE Systems’ article about the first commissioners' meeting on the BAE Systems website.