Like so many young people, in school, I was expected to do A-Levels and go to University. My English teacher told me to consider dropping the subject, as I wasn’t doing well. There’s nothing like motivation!
Although I was bright, listening to teachers and lecturers drone on in their chalk and talk way, wasn’t how I learned.
I slogged my way through a Behavioural Science degree and managed to achieve a 2:1.
What kept me going? My job in Cardiff Superbowl where I learned more about psychology and behaviour than on my course.
After uni, I was lucky to secure a Management Development programme in a large Plumbers and Builders Merchants (Wolseley Centers). They invested thousands in developing our product knowledge and management skills. We were trained by sector and industry experts, who understood that by investing in the next generation, they would ensure the longevity of their business (I still always recommend a Worcester boiler! I can also drive a fork lift truck and do soldering!)
It was Wolseley’s Training Manager who asked if I had ever thought of a career in training, I hadn’t. I saw an advert for an WBL Assessor / Tutor with a private training provider, applied and got the job (Thanks Grant Santos and Deb Birkett!!)
As an assessor it was my responsibility, not just to assess competence, but develop the skills and knowledge of my learners (candidates back then!) through coaching, mentoring and learning together. It was so satisfying when my learners improved systems, procedures, documents or something else about their workplace. The employer and learner could both really see the value in the programme.
As a Traineeship tutor (Skill Build, for those old enough to remember!) , I was provided with a different set of challenges, and it was so rewarding when a learner secured a job, became more confident, or sometimes just turned up every day.
It is for this reason that I work based learning and vocational education, and why I am passionate about giving young people a viable alternative to university or sixth form, and how, if we do it well, a Traineeship or Apprenticeship can be a valuable life changing process.
Vocational Education has long had the stigma of being “Not Very Qualified” and now is the time, with the registration of practitioners with the EWC on the horizon, that we can professionalise our workforce, make the learning count and make Wales’ Work Based and Vocational Education system the best in the world.
Some might think that by saying this, I have spent too long with a certain Mr. Cooksley! That being “world class” is a pipe dream. But…. why not? Why can’t Wales lead the way, giving our vocational educators the skills they need to help inspire others and achieve their potential in life. We have a unique network of providers who have the passion, knowledge and skills to know what Wales wants and needs and by working together. This is Panda’s challenge!
It will require investment from the Welsh Government, but we can return that investment by providing a highly skilled, employable, resilient workforce who will improve the social and economic well-being of Wales.