VET Policy Developments

VET Policy Developments

Northern Ireland

The information below has been extracted from the 2012 policy report survey circulated to the national steering group. This shows examples of policy developments in line with the short-term deliverables of the Bruges Communiqué.


Skills Solution Service

Assisting businesses in up-skilling their work force.

The Department for Employment and Learning provides a 'skills solution service' to advise on training for companies. The service provides businesses with a single advisor to assist throughout the entire staff training process, a free skills requirement assessment and mapping study and a range of other funded training support. The key point is that the resultant solutions are not drawn from a rigid menu of standard options but are, instead, entirely tailored to the specific needs of the business involved. As a result of this service, businesses have reported improved awareness of techniques and insight into the role of management, creation of effective team work, equipped existing staff with decision making and analytical skills and the ability to identify and select top performing local graduates from outside of the traditional academic backgrounds.

Visit the Department for Employment and Learning's website for further information.

This initiative relates to short-term deliverables:

  1. Organise activities aimed at promoting VET attractiveness and excellence, which may include campaigns and skills competitions;
  2. In order to maximise the contribution of VET to the "ET2020" 15% benchmark on the participation of adults in lifelong learning, review the use of incentives, rights and obligations for all stakeholders involved, and take appropriate action to encourage participation in C-VET.

Blended learning

Developing more flexible learning methods.

The further education sector in Northern Ireland has been working with the Department for Employment and Learning to exploit emerging technologies to enhance teaching and learning. As a result, blended learning has been introduced as a method of delivering teaching and learning. Blended learning is provision which is being delivered through a combination of “virtual” learning, and classroom based face to face learning. These programmes have provided the opportunity to complete programmes part-time and/or as distance learning and early evidence would indicate that there has been a positive impact on retention and achievement rates. Distance learning has also made it possible for some adults in rural areas to learn and train remotely.

Visit the Education and Training Directorate's for further information.

This initiative relates to short-term deliverables:

  1. Take preventive and remedial measures to maximise the contribution of VET in combating early leaving from education;
  2. In order to maximise the contribution of VET to the "ET2020" 15% benchmark on the participation of adults in lifelong learning, review the use of incentives, rights and obligations for all stakeholders involved, and take appropriate action to encourage participation in C-VET;
  3. Consider specific measures aimed at raising the participation of low –skilled and other “at risk” groups in education and training, including by developing flexible pathways in C-VET and using appropriate guidance and support services:
  4. Use ICT to maximise access to training and to promote active learning, as well as to develop new methods in both work- and school-based VET, in order to facilitate the participation of "at risk" groups.

Skills Strategy 'Success through Skills - Transforming Futures'

Establishing a strategy to develop skills and equip the work force with the necessary skills to support economic growth.

The Northern Ireland Skills Strategy 'Success through Skills - Transforming Futures' was launched in May 2011 and is in the process of being updated. One key headline is the need to up-skill and re-skill the workforce. Strategic goals include to:

  • Increase the proportion of those people in employment with Level 2 skills and above to 84-90% by 2020, from a baseline of 71.2% in 2008.
  • Increase the proportion of those people in employment with Level 3 skills and above to 68-76% by 2020, from a baseline of 55.6% in 2008.
  • Increase the proportion of those people in employment with Level 4-8 skills and above to 44-52% by 2020, from a baseline of 33.2% in 2008.

The strategy aims to encourage employers to encourage their staff to gain more knowledge through accredited training and allow them the time, opportunity and financial support to do so. The strategy also includes a number of projects to ensure cooperation between business and education providers e.g. simplification of skills infrastructure, placements and scholarships and expansion of foundation degrees.

Visit the Department for Education's website for further information.

This initiative relates to short-term deliverables:

  1. Take preventive and remedial measures to maximise the contribution of VET in combating early leaving from education;
  2. In order to maximise the contribution of VET to the "ET2020" 15% benchmark on the participation of adults in lifelong learning, review the use of incentives, rights and obligations for all stakeholders involved, and take appropriate action to encourage participation in C-VET;
  3. Consider specific measures aimed at raising the participation of low-skilled and other “at risk” groups in education and training, including by developing flexible pathways in C-VET and using appropriate guidance and support services:
  4. Use ICT to maximise access to training and to promote active learning, as well as to develop new methods in both work- and school-based VET, in order to facilitate the participation of “at risk” groups;
  5. Governments, social partners and VET providers should make the necessary arrangements to:
    B. create opportunities for enhanced cooperation between VET institutions and enterprises (profit and non-profit), for example through traineeships for teachers in enterprises.

E-books for further education (FE) and Skills

Making available flexible learning material through new technology.

This project started in 2009 to make freely available to all UK further education colleges a core collection of over 3000 digital vocational textbooks. An additional 60 e-books were added in 2011. JISC Collections has negotiated preferential terms and conditions so that e-books can be used to their full potential, e.g. teachers can use parts of the e-books to populate virtual learning environments and students can link to textbooks from their e-portfolios. The e-books can be used on the learners’ personal device, both negating reliance of PCs on campus and encouraging participation. The e-books’ interface can be personalised by teachers and learners, e.g. include college branding, links to other college resources and is interoperable with screen reading software. The initiative has been a catalyst for technological change in the sector, as more colleges have started to use the books, encouraging teachers to use digital resources and colleges to enable off campus access to college learning systems. A further stage was started early in 2012 to extend availability to learners in Work Based Learning outside FE colleges who have an even greater need for the flexibility provided by e-books, including the ability to access them and study whenever and wherever they happen to be and integrate study into busy lives. In addition, e-Books offer a number of advantages for learners with disabilities including portability and the ability to change font size, colour and text-to-speech options. As the project has advanced, some publishers have welcomed the support of JISC TechDis in helping them design full accessibility into their digital publications from the outset. The opportunity is now being taken by some to build in “Voice”, embedding audio delivery in from the outset.

Visit the JISC website for further information.

This initiative relates to short-term deliverables:

  1. Use ICT to maximise access to training and to promote active learning, as well as to develop new methods in both work- and school-based VET, in order to facilitate the participation of "at risk" groups.

NIRAN and JANET

NIRAN connects all NI HE and FE institutions to each other and, via the UK national education network, JANET, to the wider Internet.

The Northern Ireland Regional Area Network (NIRAN), a high-speed computer network, is a particularly important part of the IT infrastructure used by the tertiary education sector. The network comprises the four Higher Education institutions and the six Further Education colleges in NI. NIRAN now delivers individual Gigabit (1000 megabits) circuits to each of its 20 higher and further education campuses - comparable with world-class standards. The non-tertiary education sites enjoy a mix of 10 megabits and 100 megabits circuits, meeting their individual needs. There has been significant progress in the development of a wide range of infrastructure elements in the further education sector in Northern Ireland. In addition to NIRAN, there are also the electronic Individual Learner Programme (e-ILP) and the Joint Academic Network (JANET).

Visit the NIRAN / JANET website for further information.

This initiative relates to short-term deliverables:

  1. Encourage effective and innovative, quality-assured use of technology by all VET providers (including public-private networking and partnerships) supported by the necessary equipment, infrastructure and networks, with continuing improvements that reflect developments in technology and pedagogical understanding.

Employer Support Programme

Providing further education college support for economic engagement.

The ESP has been developed to take cognisance of the recommendations arising from an independent evaluation of the Innovation Fund: Employer Support Pilot Programme. The programme aims to improve the further education colleges' responsiveness, capacity and expertise to deliver skills support to companies for research and development and innovation; enhance the further education sector's ability to provide practical support to industry, particularly in priority sectors; and support entrepreneurial activity in companies in priority areas.

Visit the Department for Employment and Learning and the Northern Ireland Executive's website for further information.

This initiative relates to short-term deliverable:

  1. Governments, social partners and VET providers should make the necessary arrangements to:
    B. create opportunities for enhanced cooperation between VET institutions and enterprises (profit and non-profit), for example through traineeships for teachers in enterprises;
  2. Take measures to promote entrepreneurship, e.g. by promoting acquisition of relevant key competences, enabling practical experience in enterprises, and involving experts from businesses.

Careers Service

Providing guidance on employment and further study.

The Careers Service provides information and advice to individuals on its website, careers fairs and in partnership with education providers. This involves advice on job search, employment and study opportunities, interviews and career change and development. There is a link to ApprenticeshipsNI information and apprenticeship opportunities. A total of 43.478 individual career guidance interviews were facilitated during 2010/11.

Visit the Careers Service’s website for further information.

This initiative relates to short-term deliverable:

  1. Governments, social partners and VET providers should make the necessary arrangements to:
    A. maximise work-based learning, including apprenticeships, in order to contribute to increasing the number of apprentices in Europe by 2012.

Made not Born programme

Helping to develop leadership and management skills.

The ‘Success Through Skills Strategy’ includes the ‘Made not Born programme’ which encourages the development of leadership and management skills. The programme includes a number of events and makes use of experienced mentors to coach business leaders in addition to offer businesses a variety of course options, all of which come with a degree of financial assistance. Many organisations have already benefited from the training.

Visit the Department for Employment and Learning’s website for further information.

This initiative relates to short-term deliverable:

  1. Take measures to promote entrepreneurship, e.g. by promoting acquisition of relevant key competences, enabling practical experience in enterprises, and involving experts from businesses.

Tracking survey of VET students

Discovering the effectiveness of VET programmes in relation to the labour market.

The Department through its planned Research Agenda for 2012/15 is planning a tracking survey of VET students to track learners from the FE and training sectors after they leave that provision. The successful implementation of such a survey would mean that the Department would have labour market information on leavers from all of its key areas of sponsored provision. That in turn would help frame careers advice, student choices, policy development and service delivery

Visit the Department for Employment and Learning’s website for further information.

This initiative relates to short-term deliverables:

  1. Governments, social partners and VET providers should make the necessary arrangements to provide VET institutions with feedback on the employability of VET graduates;
  2. Pursue work on setting up monitoring systems on transitions from learning to work.

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