Friday, October 29, 2010

Adult Learning Symposium 2010 Singapore - day one

In Singapore for the Adult Learning Symposium, a two day event organized by the Institute of Adult Learning (IAL). Just over 400 delegates meeting for busy two days of keynotes and concurrent sessions, all with invited speakers.

The conference opened with a welcome from IAL executive director, Ms. Gog Soon Joo and an official address from the Minister of Manpower, Mr. Gan Kim Yong.

The overall theme of the conference is adult learning skills: productivity and professionalism. The first keynote setting the scene from Mr. Chris Humphries, Chief executive of the UK commission of employment and skills (UKCES) who provided a UK perspective on skills, jobs, productivity and growth. Provided a historical and contemporary overview and the plans for the near future. Focus on meeting the changes to workforce skills due to globalization, aging population, skill needs vs actual skills available etc. Included 5 priorities for world class skills and jobs including creating clear strategy, support economic development in regions and local communities, build employer ambition and capacity, transform individual aspiration and skills and develop more strategic, agile and demand-led skills and employment provision. Integration of these 5 priorities required.
Second keynote with Professor David Finegold on the ‘global race to transform national economies: are skills the issue’. Overview of a research project on the skill development for the 21st century workforce – to compare skill creation systems in China and India. Discussed and compared ‘low skill equilibrium (eg. UK) and the ‘sustainable skill ecosystem (eg. Silicon valley). Implications of globalization (e.g. off-shoring), technology (artificial intelligence, robotics etc.) etc. include having a college degree no longer a guarantee of success, new employment relationship, shift to new talent strategies and forms of organization. Both China and India working on moving from ‘low skill equilibrium’ to sustainable skill systems’, to move from low cost manufacturing (China) to an ‘innovation economy’ by dramatic expansion in research universities. For China major challenges with regards to meeting supply and demand issues, expectations of population towards education, a country without free access to the internet based economy and the impact of the one child policy. India seems to be a reverse of China model, has supply-side constraints, growing gap between have and have-nots and government solution to institute extreme form of affirmative action. India’s solutions may have to be a distinctive Indian solution with potential to draw on successful examples from Indian history.

Dr. Gary Wilmott who was the previous executive director of the ILS and now a visiting research fellow provided another Asian perspective on skills, jobs, productivity and growth with an emphasis on developments in Singapore through their 2010 Economic Strategies Committee (ESC) report. Provided an overview of Singapore’s skill development system and followed with discussion on current approaches and direction. Strategy to date based on comprehensive school and post-school compulsory education system (25% voc ed through ITEs, 40% polytechnics and 25% university). Challenges still exist through ½ million without O levels, growing and rapidly growing manufacturing sector but slow movement in labour skills training, growing number of older workers etc. Need to maintain skills training especially for people over 40 with low school qualifications. Singapore continuing education system developed over last 5 years or so which is industry-led, competency –led, open access, national accreditation system and national training system for trainers. Other countries have developed highly structured competency based training and assessment ‘frameworks’ for qualifications. Challenge is to match qualifications frameworks with what actually is required in the workforce and for the frameworks to be more flexible / agile.

After lunch, a series of parallel workshops ran (2 or 3 sessions). Attended the sessions which had a staff development or industry training focus. First up attended session with Dr. Christine Han and Professor Paul Morris (University of London) and Professor Stephen Billett and Dr. Ann Kelly (Griffith University). The session introduced various options available for the CET sector under the national training and adult education professional development programme. Including a Masters of Arts in Lifelong Learning from the University of London and the Masters of Training and Development from Griffith University. An overview of the CET landscape in Singapore and the Work Qualifications Framework (WQF) commenced the session followed by individual presentations from each of the representatives of the Masters programmes. Most workplace trainers / assessors complete a short introductory programme. The IAL also runs a Diploma programme in Adult and Continuing Education.

In the second lot of parallel workshops, attended the sessions with Associate Professor Michele Simons (University of South Australia) and Professor Andrew Brown (IAL) on enhancing the capability of continuing educational and training (CET) professions.

Michelle presented on a project examining the career pathways of TAFE / VET teachers, trainers and general staff (1095 responses, 955 paper-based and 140 on-line) in Australia (22 public and 21 private RTOs). The continuing professional development (CPD) of these teachers and their career trajectories was reported. Uses career capital (De Fillippi & Arthur, 2001; Bourdieu, 1986) to help understand the various ways these teachers develop. Uses metaphor of ‘know why’ as people who come through industry into teaching with high motivation. Also the ‘know how’ as people who come in with wide skill range. ‘Know whom’ career capital people have good contacts with industry and bring intangible values into their VET careers. Careers tended to be interplay between individuals and institutions (Walton & Mallon, 2004). In general, VET teachers usually a second choice career and not necessarily a long term career, high levels of occupational mobility, unique interplay between industry knowledge, specialist educational knowledge and current industry competency and changing modes of employment, driven by employers for a range of reasons. Engagement with formal, structured or informal (mentoring, job rotation etc.) professional development (PD) was high. However, management tended to be able to access PD which extends their career capital but for teachers, most PD was related to ‘how to do the teaching’ better. Important to try to understand consequences of access to PD and various movements within organisations of teachers into management.

Last speaker for today, Professor Andrew Brown spoke on ‘social research and higher professional planning’. Provided an overview of the IAL research – building capability and capacity; role of completing a doctorate; and professionalism and planning. IAL moving into research in the CET area with commitment to – develop research-informed practice and understand better how CET works in Singapore. Themes of IAL research include learning, work and impact. Discussed PhD outcomes and aspects of ‘transfer’ of the generic skills attained doing a doctorate. Compared outcomes of PhD and professional doctorates like EdD. Introduced the ideas for developing a professional doctorate programme for CET practitioners.

Planning for tomorrow’s panel followed at the end of the day and then a networking session. A long day but a good opportunity for me to catch up on the Singapore / Asian VET / CET sectors, sprinkled with acronyms, different strategic direction and funding structures. Provides a good background for me to springboard from for tomorrow’s keynote.

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