The Case for Skills Conference

October 13, 2007

Herts Chamber of Commerce – 5th October – Stevenage


  • David Frost (Director General for the British Chambers of Commerce)
  • Sir Mike Tomlinson (formerly Chair 14-19 Group for Curriculum and Qualification Reform)
  • Professor Alan Barrell (Head of Entrepreneurship for the University of Cambridge)
  • Paul Storey (Regional Skills Development Director, Learning & Skills Council, Eastern Region)

The following quotes struck home during the various talks:-

“In 2006 147,000 16 year olds left school with no qualifications whatsoever” – David Frost

“Train To Gain needs to be funded for Level 3; Level 2 is not high enough” [for businesses]  – David Frost

“There is a confusing proliferation of qualifications” – Sir Mike Tomlinson

“Biggest problem is the attitude towards vocational qualifications which do not have status” – Sir Mike Tomlinson


“Vision without Action is a daydream; Action without Vision is a nightmare” (Japanese proverb) – Prof. Alan Barrell

“Entrepreneurs blow gales of creative destruction” (Joseph Schumpeter, Vienna, 1911) – Prof. Alan Barrell

“Chance favours only the prepared mind” (Louis Pasteur) – Prof. Alan Barrell

“Imagination is more important than knowledge” (Albert Einstein) – Prof. Alan Barrell

[The full quote being …

Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.”]

 I came away from the Conference shocked and depressed at the state of the UK’s education system … but very pleased that I don’t work in the education system!  I share the views of many of the speakers in that all training and qualifications have to be focused on what businesses need their workforce to know and be able to do.  There needs to be closer ties and associations between Academia and Commerce.

One fine example is the Judge Business School in Cambridge which runs “Enterprising Tuesdays” (managed by the Centre for Entrepreneurial Learning) where University Students and local business people can hear inspirational talks from famous Entrepreneurs.  This year’s events are about to start … 23 October 2007 …


ITQ Conference

August 19, 2007

ITQ Conference 2007

 On 24 April 2007 I attended the ITQ Conference in Birmingham organised by e-skills UK (the Sector Skills Council for IT & Telecoms) which was worth the journey for the keynote speeches alone.

Karen Price, OBE, Chief Executive, e-skills UK  (as per the conference notes) …

“Karen is widely recognised as an ‘agenda setter’, uniting industry, influencing government, and supporting the transformation of the UK’s education and training system to meet the changing skills demands of the e-economy. Regularly in demand as advisor and speaker, she promotes a coherent strategy for IT-related skills for the UK to help address the rapidly changing global competitive environment – not only for IT and Telecoms professionals, but also for all business managers and leaders who need to be able to exploit technology, and for all individuals who need to be able to use technology in their day to day lives.”

Karen referred to Sandy Leitch’s report (Leitch Review of Skills) in which he states that the UK must urgently raise achievements at all levels of skills and recommends that it must commit to becoming a world leader in skills by 2020.

Karen commented that she believes that the ITQ should become an “ITQ Journey“, part of an “ITQ Family” where the ITQ is broken into chunks necessitating funding to be provided for each chunk. That way, the Learner could “bank that learning” and then the employer might pay for additional units which would benefit both the employee and the employer.

Paul Coby (Chief Information Officer, British Airways & Chair, e-skills UK CIO Board) delivered an inspiring keynote speech which included his business principle – “there are no IT projects, only business projects“.

This has been a belief that I have held for years…so many projects fail because “IT” is kept at a distance from “the business” and people still fail to fully integrate their IT process with their business process. I still hear managers say that “IT” is not “their thing”…which effectively means that managing their part of the business is not “their thing”.

I personally don’t like computers…I do not like computer games…but I have fully embraced business software and get a real buzz out of making the software “work” for me (not the other way around) and I am continually striving for “business efficiency” which I believe can only be achieved if business process is fully integrated with IT.

Paul Coby continued by saying that “technology is the anvil upon which we hammered the simplification of IT” and that BA is now “IT enabled and IT dependant“. In fact, “BA is now an IT company which happens to have some planes“.

Paper has gone out of the business” and by Dec 2007 BA want to go 100% paperless. Employees make extensive use of the Intranet…ePayslips (BA have turned off paper payslips for 38,000 employees)…rostering is online making it easy for employees to manage their worklife (and arrange rosta-swaps)…expenses are online…all SOP (standard operating procedures) are online.

He advised the audience that “We need you to train future customers to use IT” because customers will increasingly need to use the Internet.

Finally, he concluded that “An IT savvy workforce is a matter of the highest national important for the UK economy and society“.