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New foundation degree promotion begins

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Margaret HodgeA national advertising campaign to encourage take-up of the new foundation degree – a work-based degree qualification backed by industry – was launched yesterday by Lifelong Learning and Higher Education Minister Margaret Hodge.

National newspaper and local radio advertisements will encourage potential students and employers to sign up for the new two year foundation degree using the slogan ‘Fill your skills gap’.

The new vocational higher education qualification, which starts this autumn, will provide students with the technical skills and academic knowledge they need to get ahead. Developed with employers, foundation degrees will help businesses find the well qualified, skilled people needed to fill their job vacancies, or develop their existing staff for more challenging roles.

Speaking at the London Television Centre in South Bank, London, where she met students who have helped design a Creative Digital Broadcasting Technology foundation degree, Mrs Hodge said:

“Tackling skills shortages in key industry sectors is essential to support the future growth of UK businesses. Many top companies are crying out for people with the right skills and foundation degrees are a great way to deliver the opportunities for individuals and appropriate skills for employers.

“Graduates with a foundation degree will have what employers want – a thorough academic grounding coupled with practical job skills. And because these courses are vocational, they are attractive to people who are uncertain about higher education and want certainty that it will provide a passport to a job.

“Foundation degrees will also be delivered in flexible ways, allowing students to study either full or part-time through a range of methods, including distance and work-based learning. If studied full-time a foundation degree can be completed in two years.

“There are nearly 4,000 places available this September – with a choice of 69 courses, 70 per cent of these will be part time and they are filling up quickly. Introducing foundation degrees is part of our programme to widen participation in higher education. It will help meet our target that by 2010, 50 per cent of young people have the opportunity to benefit from higher education by the age of 30.”

Professor Ivor Crewe, chairman of the Foundation Degree Group, said:

“Studies among employers across the UK reveal a lack of skilled employees in key areas such as retail, banking and finance, e-skills and information technology, and logistics and transport. The National Skills Task Force reported that jobs at the associate professional and higher technician level will experience the greatest growth in the coming years, increasing by 700,000 to 9.2 million by 2006.

“Foundation degrees give people the chance to study for a higher education qualification while gaining the essential work experience needed to succeed in today’s business economy. They are also ideal for those already in work who are keen to develop their potential, as well as employers who want to invest in their staff, by putting them through a degree course while still working for them.”

Employers and professional bodies have been actively involved in the design of foundation degree courses including companies such as Carlton TV, KLM and Radisson Edwardian Hotel Group. Employers are also strongly encouraged to become directly involved in the delivery of these degree courses.

Bob Lewis, a senior manager in learning and development at Cisco Systems, which has been developing an e-commerce technology foundation degree with the Open University, said:

“On the job training alone will not fill the skills gap. It is a higher level of skills across the industry as a whole that will help to move individual forms forward.

“Foundation degrees combine vocational skills and higher level study. Graduates with those skills and that knowledge are in the best position to make a positive contribution to the sector.

“They raise the stakes in the vocational education game and, with proper promotion , will do a lot in my view to raise the visibility and credibility of this sector within industry generally.”

For more information on the courses available around the country from September 2001, log on to www.foundationdegree.org.uk or call Learn Direct on 0800 100 900.

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