Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Would You Like A Diploma With That?

In Britain, the Government is pushing the boundaries of traditional education.

Fast food chain McDonald's will now be able to award high school diplomas for courses it conducts in-house, and companies like budget airlines will be able to provide the equivalent of university degrees to their workers.

By some measures, as many as four in five jobs in Britain are in the service sector, so it is perhaps not that much of a surprise that the Government would look to McDonald's and the planes packed with budget holiday-makers as the training colleges of the future.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown says a skills deficit, particularly amongst low-income workers, is the biggest barrier to full employment in Britain now and in the future.

McDonald's already has a basic shift manager course. A staff member learns all there is to learn about running an outlet, including marketing, customer service and stock control. With government approval, that course will now have the same status as school A-levels, the equivalent of the HSC (Higher School Certificate) in Australia.

The chairman of budget airline Flybe, Jim French, says his company will go a step further, offering a course equivalent under British law to a bachelor's degree. "So many people think of cabin crew, 'Oh, they're just trolley dollies'," he said. "Think of the people who were evacuated from that aircraft last week at Heathrow. They weren't evacuated in seconds by accident. "They were evacuated after the result of years of training, of management expertise and management development."

And it gets even better with Network Rail, the company that owns the nation's railway tracks and signal boxes. The training it gives some of its track engineers will give them a qualification equal to a PhD. Mr French says that industry and universities need to do more together.

"We recently interviewed 150 engineers. Only 30 per cent were appropriate, ie. they had the right skills for the job," he said. "Rather than people spending seven years and come out and be unemployable, they actually spend four years coming out with an engineering qualification, a foundation degree and skill that you can go straight into a job."

Academic critics say the qualifications will raise false hopes among those who receive them because other companies will not value them. They also say it will cheapen traditional academic and vocational qualifications.

1 comment:

nora said...

I think that is a great idea!