Interpreting the Skills Strategy : discourse in post-16 learning and workforce development
Post-16 educational discourse reflects government policy that, as a conceptual framework, it is shaping a new model of learning, skills initiatives and workforce development. This qualitative research examines the debate concerning the Skills Strategy (DfES 2003) and impact of 21st century skills on economic and global competitiveness. It draws upon data grounded in a theoretical framework, as well as in the professional experiences of thirteen post-16 stakeholders representing a cross-section of organisations. The research question explores whether the Skills Strategy will be judged a success or failure. Discourse interpretation identifies four principal threads weaving through the thesis. The first considers the Skills Strategy in shaping workforce development and lifelong learning. The second stems from issues of what constitutes skilling. The third originates from the politicisation of learning. The fourth flows from issues of accessibility and widening participation. Research findings suggest that there is an urgent need to contextualise post-16 policy and define a pedagogy appropriate for shaping skills needs a both sub-regional and national level. The researcher is a manager in the post-16 sector responsible for delivery of a flexible and diverse curriculum, to primarily 19-plus part-time learners, across a range and level of disciplines. Based on the experience of fifteen years teaching and management in further Education, this study offers an original and significant contribution to knowledge in an academic field identified by government as critical in giving relevance to PCET. It addresses a specific gap in educational thinking and adds another voice to the learning and skills debate. This provides a powerful tool for reassessing existing professional practice across different contexts. Limitations centre on the practical considerations of undertaking research related to time-bound issues of skills policy implementation. Implications for professional practice emanate from how this research, as a model of critical reflection and part of the process of professional practice, makes its own positive contribution to knowledge and further development of the skills agenda.