Turning lifelong training for multi-career lives from aspiration into reality

The agenda for the meeting on Making a reality of Lifelong Training in the Digital Age for those attending the Conservative Party Conference is now firming up and I have been receiving advance video clips.  I am delighted that we have the expected mix of political activists and non-partisan employer, industry and training players who wish to see cross-boundary co-operation.

The venue is the Exchange Auditorium (or on-line) for pass holders (whether or not they are party members) 4.15 – 5.15 Manchester.

The opening speakers are:

  • Cllr Anna Firth, Director Conservative Policy Forum and CE Invicta National Academy.
  • Chris Francis, Chairman Conservative Science and Technology Forum
  • Alex Burghart MP, Skills Minister at DfE
  • Ian Bentinck, Chairman WCIT Lifelong Education and Training Steering Group
  • Lord Lucas, Editor in Chief Good Schools Guide, Patron Jobs Aware
  • John Midgely, Director of Public Policy, UK and Ireland, Amazon Web Services
  • Jon Hall, Better Hiring Institute Advisory Board and Open University

I am the discussion facilitator and expect to hand over to John Penrose MP, Chairman of .the Conservative Policy Forum, to wind up discussion at the end.

The summary of the topic for attendees is:

Education is not enough. Winners need training.

Most of the skills in demand today will need updating inside a couple of years. Lockdown saw massive advances in the use of on-line content, support and mentoring but it also opened massive divides between the haves (broadband, equipment, space etc.) and the have nots (economic, geographic, social).

After short introductions, most of the meeting will be devoted to “just a minute” contributions, including videos from those not able to be physically present, on how to build on what is already happening and remove the obstacles to progress and levelling up.

The Objectives are to:

  • Provide a platform for ministers to say what they are already doing to help encourage lifelong learning/training and the problems they face in joining up co-operation across departmental/agencies boundaries, including with regard to consultation and engagement with local government and employers groups
  • Provided an opportunity for CPF and CSTF members, especially those active in local government, employers, professional bodies and trade associations to say how they would like to help join up and build on what is already happening and/or put forward new ideas.
  • Introduce players to each other with a view to working together afterwards, centrally and/or locally, to produce results – whether via local partnerships or national policy studies

 Facilitators Notes and Speaker Introductions 

According to the CSTF linked In group we already have over 150 planning to attend. Many of them are in a position to help deliver practical co-operation nationally or locally, whether as party members or, on all-party basis via their corporate, professional or local government role.

Therefore, in order to save time on the day, I am putting my speaker introductions on line in advance. Those at the meeting will be asked to use Slido on their mobiles and will therefore also have access on the day.

After Anna Firth (as Voluntary Director of CPF) and  Chris Francis (as Chairman of CSTF) have opened the meeting and comments from the Minister, who was PPS at Number 10 before moving to DfE and represents Croydon South, an area with serious social deprivation and access to little full fibre to provide access to on-line learning and training, Anna will introduce me as facilitator.

I will then call on Anna Firth as first speaker because as the District Councillor for a group of villages whose schools, and everything else, closed with Covid she rang round and bootstrapped an on-line learning operation Invicta National Academy  using what came to hand. This was rapidly extended to serve those in disadvantaged and then went national, with a disproportionate take up among BAME communities in areas with poor state schooling.  Having discovered home working and life without commuting round the M25 or into London, her voters now want access to more, using their villages hall as lifelong learning and training, as well as leisure hubs.

Then I plan to call on Ian Bentinck who was called in by the investors as interim CIO to move a chain of over 50 schools around the world on-line, to short order. In doing so he discovered the world market in teaching, learning and training resources. He acquired a unique international perspective experience and has agreed to chair the neutral steering group for an exercise to put the UK at the heart of global markets using the Joint Academic Network and the Grids for Learning to achieve economics of scale, inter-operability and access.

Next we are due to show a video clip from Dr Jon Hall on the implications of the transformation of recruitment and  employment practice that is gathering pace. Over the past year recruitment has gone on-line with workers in Cornwall getting jobs in Newcastle with shortlisting, credentials checking and interviews all done on-line. But they may actually be in Tuscany, not Truro and the jobs may be with different employers at different times of day, around the world. The Better Hiring Institute has been created, with support from DCMS, Home Office and others, to identify and promote good practice in this changed world. Jon Hall, of the Open University, whose students learn while they earns, is on their advisory board.

Amazon Web Services provides much of the infrastructure used and has one of the largest skills programmes in the world. Those programmes are local as well as global, tied into to local skills needs and partnerships, giving the skills of the future to army wives, veterans and those on mature entry, conversion and welfare to work programmes as well as working with mainstream careers hubs and partnerships. John Midgely, Director of Public Policy, UK and Ireland plans to say a few words about their approach.

Finally I will call on Lord Lucas, Editor in Chief Good Schools Guide and Patron Jobs Aware to say a few words on why pastoral care and attention to benefits and welfare issues are so important to help those, employers as well as individuals, make choices that do not, at first sight, do not seem to apply to them. One of the biggest challenges will be to join up programmes across departmental boundaries, particularly to help the most disadvantaged and vulnerable move from welfare to work. There is also the challenge of joining up skills credentials, rights to work and access to benefits across the boundaries of BEIS, DfE, DWP,  Home Office and HMRC/Treasury by next April. That deadline was helpfully set by Chris Philps when extended on-line checking of the Right to Work before moving from Home Office to DCMS where his officials have responsible for digital identity policy.

All being well, I will then call on Jock Wright, a former Councillor and Head of Academic Partnerships, VerifyEd  to put that challenge into positive context by speaking for just a minute on how inter-operable skills records/passports are the glue to hold life-long learning/training together.

Before anyone gets bogged down with digital identity standards the aim is to then play a short video clip from Sally Everist of the Careers collective on the support available to help individuals mentor themselves and each other on their journey.

Then I expect to call on Cllr Glenn Bluff, Deputy Chair of the Cloud Pooled Audit Group to speak for “just a minute” on the need to turn IR 35 from an obstacle to flexible lifelong training, skills and careers, to a means of causing those who can work on-line anywhere in the world to chose to do so based in the UK and pay fair taxes, via easy to police routines, accordingly.

I have also received have video clips from

  • Michaela Eschbach, Managing Director, Founders4Schools: delivering at scale in partnership with employers and mainstream careers/skills channels e.g C&EC, LEPs, Welfare to Work


  • Tim Stranack, co-founder of Community Fibre, which already provides full fibre to 200,000 families in social housing which could be used to support lifelong training. He will be asking for partners to work with them to supply intensive short infrastructure construction modules for those emerging from the two week pre-training programs they have organized with DWP

After as many “just a minutes” as we can fit in, Anna and Chris will those in the queue to e-mail in with any ideas we have not had time to cover and more importantly, to with offers to help work with others to implement those they support, locally as well as nationally.

I hope that as many of you as have something positive to contribute will accept the challenge of providing “just a minute” (or 100 words or so) and then join the follow up to join up the ideas and turn them into action.

You will find some of the other ideas that have emerged so far from the Tell Number 10 exercise here. These include quality controlled Individual Learning Accounts, Inter-operable Skills Records and Passports, Street Corner Universities (alias Local Access Hubs) and a focus on defining and funding micro-modules for specific skills in current demand rather than generic qualifications.

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