I recently attended an SRHE event in Birmingham on the subject of employability and social mobility where there were a range of presentations reporting the work that had been undertaken to explore issues facing certain groups of students as they journey through their undergraduate studies. What struck me (yet again!) was the assumption that HE is confined to 18-21 year olds who make their career choices at that point of study which sets them along their pathway for life. What about the mature learner who, for whatever reason, decides on a change in career or gets taken along a different path not so neatly mapped out as is suggested in the research conducted by Anne-Marie Bathmaker from the University of Birmingham by certain groups of students.
David Hughes, CEO of the Learning and Work Institution referred to this issue at the recent Open University widening participation conference where, as individuals are working beyond 65, a trend which looks set to increase further, there is less likelihood of individuals remaining in the same profession, job role or career. How then, does the HE sector enable this to happen if the focus is solely on young full-time students?
I hasten to add that I don’t believe this is a class issue but one of enabling any individual the opportunity to follow their ambitions even if those ambitions sometimes take a sideways, downward or upward step. As Brooke Storer-Church from HEFCE pointed out there is a need for the right skills to be delivered in the right places at the right time and as we enter into the realm of degree apprenticeships we need to be ensuring that these meet the needs of mature employees as well as those 18 year olds fresh from compulsory education.
Links to the presentations can be found here.