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Centres of Vocational Excellence meet employers’ skills needs, finds survey


Independent research into the Learning and Skills Council’s Centres of Vocational Excellence (CoVE) programme has given them a good review. Four hundred centres are to be created within further education colleges and extension providers of work based learning by 2006. So far, 150 colleges and extension providers have been brought into the programme.

The 16 pathfinder CoVEs are setting the standards for the programme and helping the LSC develop the levels of support necessary to establish the main CoVE programme. They are also being used to test arrangements for monitoring and evaluating as well as providing mentoring support and disseminating good practice.

Evaluation of the pathfinder CoVEs, conducted by CRG Consultancy, showed that:
- Learners are proud to be part of the CoVE programme, and excellent relationships exist between learners and tutors
- Learners feel CoVEs offer a high standard of education from top quality teaching staff, and have access to industry-standard facilities and equipment
- Learners feel attending a CoVE improves their employment prospects.
- Staff regard CoVE status as recognition of excellence as leaders in their field
- CoVE status boosts their confidence and allows them to think more strategically and longer term
- The programme encourages them to develop innovative partnerships with employers
- CoVE status encourages them to seek new ways of improving teaching and learning
- Employers view CoVE lecturers as ‘industry experts’ with a pragmatic approach to learning rather than as ‘classroom based academics’
- An over-riding feature of pathfinder CoVES is that staff have contact with and knowledge of local and regional employers at all levels
- The relationship between employers and CoVE staff is characterised by a strong sense of mutual understanding and eagerness to develop relationships and practices to benefit both parties
- Close ties with industry and co-operation between college staff and employers present huge benefits for learners. The focus on employer expectations is helpful for students who are not work-based

John Harwood, Chief Executive of the LSC, said: "The CoVE programme is designed to strengthen the responsiveness of further education and training providers to the skills needs of employers in their region. These findings show that employers, as well as learners and staff, appreciate its importance and the effect it can have in raising standards of vocational learning. This will, in turn, provide companies with the workforces they need to improve competitiveness and profitability. What is particularly encouraging is the clear evidence that employers and colleges are now working together to develop even closer links and are sharing resources for mutual benefit."


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