Librarians’ Information Literacy Annual Conference (LILAC) 2010

This years LILAC took place in Limerick with both John Crawford and myself presenting the last of the Scottish Information Literacy Projects which appropriately dealt with:

The sessions were well attended and in true project style dealing with little covered information literacy areas / issues. The work of the project was acknowledged by project partners Lesley Thomson, Jenny Foreman and Morag Higgison, and Andy Jackson and by Bob Glass from Manchester Metropolitan University (didn’t realise that Bob was musical until I heard him play the guitar and sing at the networking evening)) who chaired John’s session.

Lesley’s presentation Developing an information literacy community of practice in Scotland was really interesting and I plan to continue participating in the community despite the end of the project and would recommend others to join. Just email Lesley.Thomson@scotland.gsi.gov.uk or Jenny.Foreman@scotland.gsi.gov.uk

Jenny and Morag’s presentation Scottish Government information literacy in the work place – measuring impact gave an insight into their information literacy work within the Scottish Government and their investigation measuring the impact. Ralph Catts (Senior Research Fellow at Stirling Institute of Education) one of the keynote speakers attended their session and commended them for evaluating what they were doing as it would be important in the difficult times ahead. Unfortunately I didn’t get to hear his entire keynote ‘Evaluating the Impact of Information Literacy’ as I had a plane to catch. I did hear the other keynotes including Tony Durcan Head of Culture, Libraries and Lifelong Learning for Newcastle City Council who spoke about the role of  information literacy and public libraries ‘Information is as vital to the healthy functioning of communities as clean air, safe streets, good schools and public health’

Andy Jackson was as ever thought provoking in his session / workshop Just enough education to perform: Information skills, professionalism and employability. He certainly made those who attended think as he suggested that HE needs to look further at graduate attributes and refocus their information skills teaching more towards the graduate. He cited the work of “Simon Barrie (2006; 2008) and others on concepts of ‘graduateness’ places information skills at the heart of what it is to be a graduate”. He also highlighted that HE should

  • seek ways of engaging with the professions
  • offer focused training
  • make connections with local employment forums, skills agencies etc
  • develop the workplace information profession.

The workshop activities he had us doing included thinking about What professional skills did we learn which have been useful in our career? And What attitudes or values did we feel we developed through attending University?. The next activity was we had to select an information skills activity from a list of six he gave us (the group I was in selected – Effective Internet searching) we were also given two Graduate Attributes (we had Develop enterprise skills and commercial awareness and Hold a perspective that acknowledges local, national and international concerns) which we were to build into a learning activity. Then we had to create a brief plan for our learning activity. The examples given in the feedback were interesting and I hope people went away and as Andy suggested actively sought out what their university was doing regarding garduateness and employability and engage with it demonstrating the role of the library / librarians.

Other presentations I attended included Geoff Walton’s ‘Having a shufti: using focus group findings to map unchartered territory in the information literacy landscape’ – informative as ever in relation to the learning support tool ASK (Assignment Survival Kit) http://www.staffs.ac.uk/ask/  I also attended Ruth Stubbing and Jo Myhill’s presentation Developing librarians as teachers to enhance the learner experience to hear about SirLearnaLot an online tutorial that aims to help library staff enhance their understanding of pedagogy so that they can feel confident in designing and delivering teaching.

There were a couple of interesting Posters:

  • So-Young Kim (University of Tokyo) – What are the Post-Effects of Japan’s National Curriculum Standards? : Inquiry based Learning and Elementary School Libraries. So-Young Kim attended my presentation and was very interested in the work I was doing in schools.
  • Katherine Reedy (Open University) – i-know  at the OU: information skills for the 21st century workplace. I have posted about this work previously.
  • Sheila Corrall (University of Sheffield)  – Mapping Information Literacy Strategy. Sheila has done a lot of work in this area.

The project also got national mentions from both Wales and Ireland. A mention from Cathie Jackson (Cardiff University) who in her presentation An information literacy strategy for Wales: towards a national framework acknowledged that their inspiration came from the Scottish Information Literacy Project. Great news that they have got nine months funding to employ a project officer to take things forward for them and I wish them all the best. Ireland has also been inspired by the project and Dr Philip Cohen (Head of Library Services, Dublin Institute of Technology) attended both the project sessions and Lesley Thomson’s session on the community of practice in Scotland. I spoke to Philip and Siobhán Fitzpatrick the President of the Library Association of Ireland at the conference dinner and Siobhán gave us a mention in her address after the conference dinner. It is great to think that we have inspired so many people and countries.

It was also good to hear the minister who opened the conference that information literacy was a key support for lifelong learning and that the role of librarian and education was crucial at this time for developing the individual.

Christine Irving  scotinfolit@googlemail.com

LILAC 2010

I see the LILAC 2010 draft programme for the parallel sessions are now posted on the LILAC 2010 website and that my presentation is first up in the parallel sessions for the conference.

Monday 29th March 2010

3pm – 3.45pm Begin at the beginning – Information Literacy in primary schools  - Christine Irving

4.25pm – 5.10pm  Employability and information literacy: a review of a training programme - John Crawford

Tuesday 30th March 2010

12.10 – 12.40 Developing an information literacy community of practice in Scotland - Lesley Thomson (the program has Thomson with an p)

12.45 – Scottish Government information literacy in the work place – measuring impact -Morag Higgison and Jenny Foreman

Will need to have a look and see who else is presenting plus presentations of interest.

The minister’s reply

 Last month, before the Scottish Learning Festival took place (23-24 September), attendees were invited to submit questions to the Cabinet Secretary for Education for her to answer.  I submitted the question below but only a few were answered directly by the minister at the conference. The remainder were subsequently dealt with by email.  The minister’s answer is below. Only a relatively short part of it refers directly to information literacy and only to the schools sector. The wider agenda is ignored and there is no answer to the question – what strategic initiatives does she think the Scottish Government can engage in to promote it? I shall be enquiring further and also refer her to the US President’s greater commitment to information literacy. (See URL http://www.whitehouse.gov/assets/documents/2009literacy_prc_rel.pdf  

 Question to Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Education in the Scottish Government

 

My question to the minister is:

 The important skills of critical literacy / information literacy has been highlighted within the Curriculum for Excellence: Literacy across learning (finding and using information, understanding, analysing and evaluating) levels Early to Fourth. Does the minister agree that  information literacy  skills are essential in  independent learning at all educational levels, career choice and long term management, employability training, workplace decision making and lifelong learning and what strategic initiatives does she think the Scottish Government can engage in to promote it?

Answer from the minister

Thank you for submitting a question, please see below the response from the Education Secretary,

 The Scottish Government is determined to help our children and young people develop the literacy skills they will need to thrive in the 21st century. Skills in literacy unlock access to the wider curriculum, increase opportunities for the individual in all aspects of life and lay the foundations for lifelong learning and work. Curriculum for Excellence, the Scottish Government’s major programme of reform for the education sector, emphasises the importance of literacy skills and makes clear that all teachers have responsibility to promote their development.

The Curriculum for Excellence principles and practice paper for literacy sets out the outcomes we want our young people to achieve as they progress through their education.  Young people will need to know about the fundamentals of reading and writing but also how these skills can be applied critically, across different media, to analyse and evaluate information and to work out what trust they may place in it and identify when and how people are aiming to persuade or influence them.

As our children and young people progress through learning they should develop increasing independence in applying these skills, and the ability to use them across a widening range of contexts in both learning and life. Glow, the world’s first national schools Intranet, provides learners with  a range of tools and rich learning materials which can be accessed at any time and anywhere there is an internet connection, offering a safe, accessible online environment which supports independent learning.

The Third Scottish Information Literacy Project Open Meeting

Open Meeting 2009

Open Meeting 2009

The Scottish Information Literacy Project’s third Open meeting took place on Wednesday 16th September 2009 at Glasgow Caledonian University and about 45 people attended. It was a genuinely cross sectoral event with people attending from all library sectors, educational agencies, government organisations including the Scottish Government and academia.  Inevitably a few people dropped out at the last moment through illness or other commitments. Unfortunately this included our keynote speaker, Professor David Smith, who had to pull out through illness.  

The theme of the day was information literacy as part of the wider skills agenda as one of the Project’s successes has been locating information literacy (IL) within this agenda. I began the day by giving an overview and update of the Project including some of the initial findings of the evaluation which we have done of the excellent employability skills courses which Inverclyde Libraries run.  This drew attention to health as an employability issue and the difficulty in disentangling personal from vocational motivations. This provoked a lively audience discussion during which it emerged that people from different library and educational sectors had shared concerns.  Next Jenny Foreman, the Scottish Government’s Information Literacy Librarian spoke about the Scottish Government’s Information Literacy Strategy. This was very much a policy level presentation explaining the need for a strategy and the issues likely to be encountered in developing it. Jenny also described how the policy is turned into practical training. Her colleague, Lesley Thomson, Knowledge Management Officer at the Scottish Centre for Regeneration then described the Information Literacy Community of Practice which she and Jenny are launching and will host and lead. She explained the principles behind a community of practice and how the website will operate. All are welcome to join and contribute. For further details contact either Lesley.Thomson2@scotland.gsi.gov.uk or Jenny.Foreman@scotland.gsi.gov.uk who will gladly sign you up.

 

After lunch Christine Irving, the Project Officer on the Scottish Information Literacy Project, spoke about the restructuring of the Scottish Information Literacy Framework which is being restructured to make it a genuine lifelong learning document incorporating early years, the workplace, employability and lifelong learning. It is being physically restructured as a weblog so that postings of current activities and developments can be added. It is also interactive and comments and postings can be made. It includes exemplars of good practice from all educational sectors. There is, as yet, less on the workplace and lifelong learning but the work we are doing on the workplace and employability is helping to enrich it. It can be found at http://www.caledonianblogs.net/nilfs/ and through the project website http://www.gcal.ac.uk/ils/framework.html .

Next Lou McGill, an elearning and Information Management Consultant reported on a JISC funded study Learning Literacies for the Digital Age (LLiDA) – http://prezi.com/vv_ynswlwwkv/ see also Project website http://www.academy.gcal.ac.uk/llida/ . LLiDA is a study of academic, ICT and information literacies across a range of HE institutions including Glasgow Caledonian and takes the form of institutional audits with overall analyses and best practice exemplars drawn from participating institutions. She found that IL people were further ahead in their thinking than other learning literacies areas. Flexible education will be needed as it is impossible to predict future employer needs. She feels that there are still to many ‘silos’ in HE each with its own language. Academic teaching is slow to change and there is resistance to a holistic agenda.

IMcCracken Open Meeting 2009

IMcCracken Open Meeting 2009

The last speaker was Ian McCracken, Learning Resources Manager at Govan High School – Connections between Information Skills and wider skills: the Future Skills Project where he and his colleagues have developed a Future Skills System of 71 skills which pupils can acquire which includes IL.  The Future Skills System is matched to Standard Grades, local and national business requirements, curricular and extra curricular work and the Curriculum for Excellence. Ian also mentioned the problem of a common language as Lou had. The Framework has been in existence long enough for Ian to be able to identify the most used skills throughout Curriculum for Excellence Experiences and Outcomes as ‘Analytical Skills’, ‘ICT E-Lit’ and ‘Gathering facts’ which have pretty obvious IL implications.

All in all it was a most useful day and a great deal of information was exchanged in informal discussions as well as the formal sessions. Similar issues were identified across a range of sectors and practical difficulties round employability and linking vocational skill training and personal development were reviewed.  The PPTs and accompanying documents will appear shortly on Slideshare as we are running out of space on allocated space with the university and will be linked to the project web event page http://www.caledonian.ac.uk/ils/events.html. All the presentations were excellent and represent a great deal of work by those who gave them and I would like to thank all who contributed.

Scottish Information Literacy Project’s Third Open Meeting

The third Scottish Information Literacy Project Open Meeting will take place on Wednesday 16th September between 10.0am  and 4.15 pm  at Glasgow Caledonian University. It is a free event to encourage maximum participation.  The programme is enclosed below.

As with last year’s event there will be a strong focus on partnership involvement with presentations by  Project partners and supporters. This year’s theme is Information literacy within the wider skills agenda as defined by Government policy as the Project has been successful in locating information literacy within this agenda. Professor David Smith, the co-director of the Centre for Research in Lifelong Learning, has agreed to deliver a keynote reviewing the educational policy background to developments in information literacy.

To reserve a place email us as below listing: name, job title, email address and indicating any specific dietary and/or disability requirements by Friday 4th September.

 

Best wishes

 

Dr. John Crawford,                          Christine Irving

Library Research Officer,              Researcher / Project Officer

Milton Street Building                    Milton Street Building

MS004, (ground floor)                   MS005, (ground floor)

Glasgow Caledonian University Glasgow Caledonian University

Cowcaddens Road                           Cowcaddens Road

Glasgow, G4 0BA                              Glasgow, G4 0BA             

Tel: 0141-273 -1248                          Tel: 0141-273 -1249

Email jcr@gcal.ac.uk                       Email christine.irving@gcal.ac.uk

Project website    www.caledonian.ac.uk/ils/

Project blog          http://www.caledonianblogs.net/information-literacy

 

 

Scottish Information Literacy Project Third Open Meeting – Wednesday 16th September 2009

Information literacy and the skills agenda: a day devoted to linking information literacy with skills strategies at all levels                

Glasgow Caledonian University, Hamish Wood Building W115

Programme

9.30 – 10.00 – Registration and coffee/tea

10.00- 10.10 – Welcome and overview. Dr John Crawford, Director, Scottish Information Literacy Project

10.10-10.55 – Keynote. Information literacy and the knowledge society:  implications for higher education.  Professor David Smith, Co-director, Centre for Research in Lifelong Learning

 

10.55 -11.05 Comfort break

11.05-11.50 – Project overview and update.  John Crawford

11.50- 12.30 – The Scottish Government’s information literacy strategy and the launch of the Information Literacy Community of practice website. Lesley Thompson, Knowledge Management Officer, Scottish Centre for Regeneration and Jenny Foreman, Information Literacy Librarian, Scottish Government

 

12.30- 13.30 – Lunch

13.30 – 14.15 – Restructuring the Scottish Information Literacy Framework.  Christine Irving, Project Officer, Scottish Information Literacy Project

14.15 -15.00 – Learning Literacies for the Digital Age, a JISC funded study (LLiDA).  Lou McGill- eLearning and Information Management Consultant

 

15.00 – 15.20 Afternoon tea

15.20 – 16.05 – Connections between Information Literacy Skills and wider skills:  The Future Skills Project. Ian McCracken, Learning Resources Manager, Govan High School. 

16.05- 16.15 – Summary and close

Most presentations to run for 45 minutes including time for questions

Govan High School Future Skills Symposium

On Friday 24th April we attended a Future Skills Symposium at Govan High School.  The school is one of our most active Project partners through the work of Ian McCracken the Learning Resources Manager there. The Framework (Future Skills) of 71 core transferable skills is the work of Philip Graham, the Depute Head and Ian with the full support of the ‘Heidie’, Ian White, and has been in operation since the 2007-8 school year began.

It arose out of the fact that pupils were unable to identify their own skills and confidently use them in a wide range of situations. This led to an unsuccessful search for a comprehensive pre-existing framework of skills with the result that Philip and Ian set out to compile their own with the full involvement of staff and pupils.  An initial list of ‘hundreds of skills’ was pared down to a definitive list of 71 future skills which are prominently displayed around the school and are used in every subject.  This has not meant an abandonment of the curriculum or the teaching skills as a separate subject because an examination of the Curriculum for Excellence showed that the skills were already there. They had not been noticed before.  A matching exercise on skills demanded by a range of employers was successfully carried out. The skills are divided into seven groups – the communicator, the contributor, the doer, the sorter, the originator, the connector and the decider. The communicator, for example, has skills which include creative writing, e-literacy, presentation skills and objective reporting while the contributor has team skills, participation skills and is environmentally friendly. Skills booklets were devised so pupils could self assess the skills they learned in lessons and extra-curricular activities. There are also skill cards for teachers who can nominate pupils who make progress in a particular skill. The details of the skills booklets are fed into a growing computer database which offers interesting analytical possibilities to support further development and to inform key areas.  Information literacy is, of course, one of the skills and occurs regularly in all the booklets. Ian is now analysing the database to identify the frequency of the appearance of IL skills and how they relate to others. The results should be interesting.

The event was attended not only by teachers but also people from other education sectors and those concerned with learning and skills development. The Future Skills Framework is likely to be influential well beyond the school sector.  Some further detail can be found in a Times Educational Supplement Scotland article. See URL http://www.tes.co.uk/article.aspx?storycode=2638693. You can also watch two PPTs which describe the developmental processes and outcomes in detail. govan-1-journey-so-far1 govan-2-nuts-and-bolts

 

Skills for Scotland: information literacy, libraries and learning

This was the title of a Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (Scotland) (CILIPS) conference, held at Glasgow Metropolitan College, on Thursday 19th March and was chaired by Christine and me.  It was inspired by the Skills for Scotland policy document, published in October 2007 and reviewed the role of information literacy in skills development and economic growth.

After an introduction by CILIPS President, Margaret Forrest, Rhona Arthur, Assistant Director of CILIPS/SLIC spoke about a range of initiatives currently ongoing in Scotland (libraries as learning centres, readership development, workforce development and next generation qualifications) plus how information professionals support skills development and the tools we have.  The Scottish Information Literacy project and framework was mentioned by Rhona. She also referred to the credit crunch and that there was an increase in Public Libraries for IT and skills courses and that 45% use libraries for learning, supporting their studies or homework.

She was followed by Peter Godwin, Academic Liaison Librarian, University of Bedfordshire, who overviewed the main issues in IL teaching and talked about various web 2.0 tools and how they can be used to support IL teaching. Joanna Ptolomey, chair of the Scottish Health Information Network, introduced a health literacies theme by speaking about health inequalities, a particularly important theme in Scotland. Good quality patient information, to be effective must avoid ‘healthspeak’ and use clear, simple language.

The last morning speakers were Jenny Foreman and Lesley Thompson, from the Scottish Government Information Service who are among our most active partners. They spoke about the joint work they did with us on the use of information by Scottish Government civil servants and the actions they have taken which include introducing advanced internet searching training and the development of an information literacy strategy for the Scottish Government.

After lunch, Margaret McKay, a JISC e-advisor talked about assistive technologies which can benefit those with disabilities. This presentation has a strong practical focus with ideas which can be implemented across all library sectors.  Andy Jackson, Teaching and Learning Librarian at Dundee University, returned to teaching themes by demonstrating the Cephallonian method of information literacy instruction with the help of the audience and showed the advantages of moving away from the traditional resource based methods of teaching.

After the afternoon break the focus was on public libraries and prison libraries. This included a joint presentation by Liz McPartlin, Community Access Librarian, Stirling Council and Richard Smith, Reader in Residence about a reader in residence scheme at Cornton Vale women’s prison to develop reading amongst the women and their families, promote use of the library and creative reading and create links between the women and community libraries. The reading groups are also used to help prisoners to explore their problems.

Paul McCloskey, Library development Officer SW Neighbourhood with City of Edinburgh Council reported on various outreach activities in Edinburgh including learning programmes, a book bus and the Libraries4U scheme. Kate King (Edinburgh Prison Library Officer and Sighthill Library Bookstart Worker) finished off the joint presentation with an impassioned and enlightening presentation on the impressive new prison library at Saughton in Edinburgh and the amazing work she does there to develop the 1st ever Family Event inside the prison and support prisoners for release. She certainly demonstrated that she was “reaching out to the hardest to reach and are helping them discover something that everyone in this room already knows Libraries Can Change Lives – and reading and books can help!”

It was a most useful day with a cross sectoral audience drawn from most library sectors.  The two presentations on IL training were of particular benefit to those outside the HE sector and the training theme was further explored by Jenny and Lesley while there were two useful presentations on health literacy/assistive technology issues. Other speakers covered the role of the public library in education and training, and its continuing role as an agent of community education and development.  Issues like prison provision, deprivation and exclusion were also covered.

Congratulations to Catherine Kearney, Assistant Director of CILIPS/SLIC and her colleagues for efficiently planning and managing the day.

Alliance of Sector Skills Councils Employer Conference

On Monday 16th March I attended the Alliance of Sector Skills Councils Employer Conference held at Murrayfield Stadium, Edinburgh. All sector skills were represented and I joined the Lifelong Learning table. This sector covers community learning, FE/HE, Libraries, archives and information services and work based learning. The morning was taken up with the views of politicians and government agencies. Fiona Hyslop, the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning gave a short presentation in which she spoke about the 16+ Learning Choice proposals and then reviewed government actions since the launch of the Skills for Scotland document in October 2007.

This was followed by short presentations by senior staff from the Scottish Qualifications Authority, the Scottish Funding Council, Skills Development Scotland and Jobcentre Plus. Points emerging included the need to invest in skills development in times of recession while Mark Batho, of the Scottish Funding Council, raised a lot of interest by calling for the revival of sandwich courses which as well as being beneficial to students create good university links with employers. It might also be an opportunity for students to practise IL skills learned from IL training programmes.

This was followed by a cross party panel of members of the Scottish Parliament although unfortunately there was no one to represent the Scottish National Party.  Most of the time went to answering questions from the floor. There was much discussion about whether skills training should be sector specific or generic although no general view emerged. There was also a feeling that there is an overemphasis on youth training at the expense of older people. I attempted to raise IL within the context of employability skills training but the politicians did not seem very interested.

Rather more productive was the afternoon session at which each skill group had a general discussion. Identifying learning demand and the difficulty employers themselves have in identifying training needs was a key theme echoing the findings of David Gibbons- Wood at Robert Gordon University. Robust, accurate data is needed to plan training.  Currently too much market information is anecdotal. As there seemed to be an interest in information issues I reported on our work with Inverclyde Libraries in incorporating IL training into their employability training programmes.  Overall a useful day and it was helpful to learn something about the problems of particular skill sectors. Having established contact with the Lifelong learning sector I think we are now firmly in their loop. Although the politicians did not seem very interested in IL the Lifelong learning sector clearly is.  Our advocacy policy in general is to target the people who speak to the people who make the decisions and starting off at a technical rather than a political level seems the best way forward.

 

New year activities

This is the first blog of 2009 and I have delayed writing until I had something to report.   We got our first statistics report earlier this month which showed that the blog had been visited 1,086 times between December 13th, 2008 and January 12th 2009. There was a peak of activity about mid December with an understandable tailing off between 22nd December and 5th January   with a revival in visits thereafter. This seems like a healthy start and hopefully visits will increase as the blog becomes better known. We should get a clearer picture by the end of February.  Last week I was speaking to Alistair McCleery at the Scottish Centre for the Book at Napier University who is a reader so we are casting our net wide.

Our first meeting of the year, on 8th January, was at Glasgow Chamber of Commerce with Elaine Rodger, their Training and Workforce Development Manager, who has agreed to distribute a questionnaire on the information needs of small businesses, designed by us, to Chamber members. We are currently focusing on identifying possible content of information literacy training programmes for the workplace and the wider employability agenda. This will help us to plan content effectively and identify the needs of specific stakeholder groups.

Coincidentally I came across newspaper reports at the beginning of the year indicating that the Business School at Robert Gordon University has secured large funding to develop training programmes for small businesses in the Aberdeen area.  I have been in contact with David Gibbons-Wood who is leading on this and we are currently exchanging information. On Friday 9th January we met further with Skills Development Scotland to plan the symposium on the role of information literacy in career choice, progression and work situations. We have had to revise the date to Friday 27th March.

On Thursday 15th January we had a visit from two of our most enthusiastic Project partners, Jenny Foreman and Lesley Thomson of the Scottish Government Library Services. They were active participants in our interview based study of the use of Information in the workplace. The refereed article reporting on the research as a whole should appear in the next issue of Journal of librarianship and information science and we hope it will be widely read as not a great deal has been published in this area. Meanwhile a shorter piece focusing on the use of information in the Scottish Government and how the problems identified in the study, specific to the Scottish Government, are being addressed has recently appeared.  (Crawford, John et al, (2008) Use of information in the Scottish Government, Library & information update, December, pp. 48-49.)  We discussed with them the first draft of their Scottish Government Information Literacy Strategy which was partly inspired by our joint working and made a few suggestions towards the next draft. No doubt we will hear much more about it in due course.

On Monday 26th January I had a visit from Tanya Wiseman of the International Development Association of Scotland who is working on a three year Project to get teacher educators to think about global citizenship. This involves changing practices of teacher educators including a focus on information literacy.  We share an interest in influencing teacher educators and trainee teachers so we hope we will be able to work together on this.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, we are trying to raise our internal profile but more of this later.

 

Scottish Funding Council ICT conference

On  Tuesday 9th December Christine and I attended a Scottish Funding Council (SFC) ICT conference in Edinburgh at the invitation of the SFC Senior Policy Officer for Strategic Development, this being an outcome of the meeting we had attended at SFC on 27th November. The aim of the meeting was to bring together people in FE and HE with employers to discuss how FE and HE can support eskills training. We had never met such a group before but it was soon apparent that the employer representatives were well known to SFC staff and had a good record in supporting eskills development and were therefore not necessarily typical of employers as a whole and indeed one of them remarked. “We are untypical because we are here” and a lack of employer vision proved to be one of the themes of the day.

There were two introductory keynote presentations which included such points as the growing number of businesses using IT, and the need for IT staff to focus on the needs of their employers. The need to focus on the generation which did not grow up with the Internet was emphasised and our old and highly relevant friends, soft skills development, including problem solving were mentioned.

Much of the rest of the day was taken up with discussion and feedback sessions. Our study of information usage in the workplace and our round of meetings, following on from it, suggested that the public sector is a promising area and that getting the message over to Small to Medium Sized Enterprises (SME’s) is the biggest problem.  This and similar issues surfaced – how do you target the right people in organisations? ; SMEs don’t look ahead and plan for the future. Timing, mode of delivery and length of training were all discussed. The need to find out what companies want is crucial as universities often don’t do this. Also mentioned is the need to involve the Scottish Trades Union Congress and particularly its learning representatives who, as we learned from our meeting with the STUC’s Everyday Skills Committee on Tuesday 25th November, have an excellent grasp of workplace training needs. Significantly nobody from the STUC had been invited to attend. Suggested solutions included an annual event where people from SMEs could meet university staff, which sounds like a good opportunity for IL advocates.

After the first discussion session feedback included developing employability skills and improving course content. Increasing funding training weighted in favour of SMEs was also mentioned.

In the discussions there was quite a lot of criticism of the teaching of IT in schools which was felt to be out of date, boring and lacking in relevance to pupils. This, in turn, raises a major policy issue: the absence of any University input to Curriculum for Excellence planning. While this is a big issue it suggests that our Framework which links secondary and tertiary education is quite pioneering. 

After lunch there were short presentations by several participants who included Christine Sinclair, the executive director of the Institute of Business at Adam Smith College. They work actively with schools in developing the Curriculum for Excellence and also have an advisory board of employers who have, inter alia, urged the need for more soft skills training.

Finally we were invited to suggest a training area into which the SFC might put money and asked to break up into groups to discuss it. Our group spent a lot of time discussing the developing of targeted training for SMEs which would have be funded by SFC since SMEs obviously won’t do it themselves. We all agreed that market research was needed to find out what SMEs want and appropriate mode of delivery is essential whether online, face to face or mentor mediated. An administrative structure would need to be put in place to make it work effectively.

Overall it was a useful day with the main message being that the promotion of eskills and IL training face similar problems