'Posh' people urged to get hands dirty

May 26, 2000

Universities need to change their attitude towards vocational training if Britain is to overcome skills shortages, college leaders warned this week, Jennifer Currie writes.

Speaking at the new Learning and Skills Council's conference, Chris Hughes, chief executive of the Further Education Development Agency, said that higher education was not included in the new work-based learning agenda because some "posh people in posh universities did not want to get their hands dirty".

Yet medicine, health care and information technology are subject areas feeling the pinch of the nation's skill shortages. "What have universities been doing to allow these shortages to emerge?" Mr Hughes asked. "It is time for them to take on their roles and responsibilities."

Universities were urged to forge relationships with local employers and entrepreneurs to allow full-time students to include work experience placements.

Mr Hughes also called on colleges to "reinvent the polytechnic groove. I would love to see our colleges delivering the same kinds of programmes as the community colleges in the US."

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