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Transforming learning cultures in further education Phil Hodkinson, University of Leeds, Helen Colley, Manchester Metropolitan University

The TLRP project, Transforming Learning Cultures in FE (TLC), identified the following key issues as having implications for policy making in 14 – 19 VET.

Relationships with employment

Vocational education and training (VET) programmes require relationships with their relevant employment sectors. There should be a close relationship between the knowledge, skills and understanding needed in the sector and the curriculum of a VET course. VET courses provide either progression from the course into related employment, or relevant off the job education for trainees already working in a firm. These two purposes are linked, but making them work is fraught with difficulty. For example, many students’ original job- related expectations were not realised in four of the VET programmes studied in the TLC project. In another programme, students claimed that their job prospects had improved but not because of increased understanding of the workplace.

There are four different types of course organization which are common in FE and were studied within the TLC project. They are:

College-based provision, with integral links with local employers. College-based provision, with no significant employer links. Employer-based modern apprenticeship provision, with some college day release. Employer-based provision, with college-organized assessment of National Vocational Qualifications (NVQ) competences.

Each situation brings different strengths and weaknesses. The most effective VET provision is likely to be found when college and employer links are close and synergistic. Fuller and Unwin (2003a) showed how such close links can work well in a modern apprenticeship scheme in the steel industry. Our research showed equally effective provision for nursery nurses that was college-led. In both cases, on the job training experiences and college-based off the job VET were mutually supportive. Both were valued by all concerned

  • employers, tutors and students. In the case of nursery nursing, the two-year

period on the course helped the majority of students who completed to progress easily into employment.

This very success revealed associated problems. Existing values and practices in the sector were difficult to challenge. There were occasional tensions, as when the college tutors helped students understand and adopt principles of equality of opportunity, whilst some students routinely encountered racist attitudes in their work placements. Other issues could not be raised, because close links with the workplace rendered them invisible. Key amongst these was female gender stereotyping, associated with low


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