The Association of Colleges (AoC) annual conference – key takeaways

We recently attended the Association of Colleges (AoC) annual conference on 19 and 20 November, at the ICC, Birmingham. We were registration sponsor for the conference and exhibited in the conference foyer alongside Skills Forward. The two day event is a great opportunity for us to meet customers from colleges across the country, and attend various sessions to share and gain knowledge about what’s happening in the sector.

Our ever-popular annual cuddly toy this year was the Planning Penguin! Hopefully you had the chance to visit us and pick one up, don’t forget to tweet us your photos @NCFE using #PlanningPenguin.

Sessions included:

  • Mental health in the workplace and the classroom
  • Personal and social development and youth social action
  • Digital transformation: How colleges can meet the expectations of government and learners
  • Functional skills - Skills that power potential and are the foundation for lifelong learning
  • Digital dynamite

Here are some key points from the sessions which our colleagues attended.

Session: Upskilling and reskilling adult in a digital age

This session highlighted some important (and alarming) statistics around adult skills, the importance of lifelong learning, and the impact that digital changes brings to the sector, for both colleges and their learners.

Did you know…

  • There are 9 million adults with poor numeracy and literacy skills, and 13 million adults with poor digital skills.
  • We have the second lowest investment in Europe when it comes to adult learning.
  • Participation in adult education is dropping – employment is high but work is often poor quality.

Kicking off with an inspiring Ken Roache film, the session really highlighted that we need to make adult learning more compelling to become inclusive to those who require it, breaking down barriers and removing restrictions.

It also articulated some of the real and present challenges for colleges including how to upskill staff to deliver technology enabled learning.

In conclusion, there is no easy fix. ‘Adults’ are not a homogenous group and as such there is not a ‘one size fits all’ solution. What we do know is that adult learning needs to be compelling, flexible and transferable. It needs to create opportunities and reward achievements, big or small, to build confidence within adult learners, which in turn can instil power to the learner. Those of us working in the sector need to become part of the solution together, through collaborative working.

 

Session: Transition to T Level: What makes a student T Level ready?

This session focussed on the key components of the transition programme, ensuring T Level readiness.

The transition programme consists of the following:

  1. A diagnostic and guidance period, where a learner’s individual needs can be assessed to decide what T Level suits them. This will ensure learners are entered on to relevant qualifications that will set them up for their individual journey and future goals.
  2. Ensuring access to English and maths for learners who have not yet achieved grade 4 at GCSE. English and maths skills are vital for everyday life, and those who don’t possess grade 4 currently, should not be overlooked. This is the reason for our #fully functional campaign and why we provide a range of English and maths qualifications to support learner progression.
  3. Work experience and preparation for it – help learners to prepare for industry placements. This will ensure learners get the most out of the opportunities presented to them, and that the placement really enhances their learner experience, outcomes and future success, things which are key to us at NCFE. 
  4. Introduction to technical skills – the practical skills to allow learners to succeed in their chosen career path. These need to be tailored to the chosen T Level route to ensure that they are relevant for the learner and will enhance their success.
  5. Pastoral support and personal development – identify and address any barriers a learner may have. This enables the required support to be identified and provided for each learner based on their individual needs. Wider support needs to be readily available and easily accessible, to allow learners to develop study skills and get the most out of their programme.

Following the above programme will get learners ready for T Levels and set them up for success, by ensuring that colleges are providing the best learning experiences and support to help learners thrive, whatever their ambitions.

A final thought…

The final thought of the day came from social entrepreneur, Akala, who wrapped up the conference with an inspiring talk about his personal journey. Akala spoke about the ‘violence of low expectation’ and this is something that really resonates with NCFE as we believe that no one should be written off based on their demographic. If you expect and demand the best of someone, that is what you will see, and they will live up to those expectations. We need to begin with the idea that any young person can be the best version of themselves and we can support them to develop on their own path.

We’re already looking forward to next year’s conference and will be meticulously planning our annual cuddly toy for you to add to your collection.

 

If you didn’t get a chance to speak with us at the event and want to get in touch about how our solutions could work for your college, get in touch and email [email protected]

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