A recent situation has left me considering if our higher education colleges are losing their grip on reality.
At the risk of sounding like one those people who start letters to newspapers with ‘Am I alone in thinking?’, a recent situation has left me considering if our higher education colleges are losing their grip on reality.
Those of us who actively want to assist colleges to produce graduates who are commercially savvy as well as brilliant at design or technical innovation are finding it increasingly hard to connect with the academics.
The British Footwear Association (BFA) is about to launch a major project for technical trainees to counteract the acute skills shortage. We approached all the relevant colleges that could provide the necessary external training. The speed of response was slow - and in one notable case not
at all. The eventual suggestions were often lost in bureaucratic complications and were more expensive than their commercial counterparts.
Another example: the BFA has been able to offer on behalf of a large footwear company an all-expenses paid three-month internship in China for a UK design student.
A to-die-for opportunity, you would have thought. One college immediately offered six students for consideration, one four (but more than a month late) and the third none. The reason? It could not find a student “who has the right level of self-confidence/assurance needed to undertake a placement in China”.
It’s no wonder students leave college with limited knowledge of what “life is like out there” and why employers feel frustrated when asked to provide work experience and employment for them. Some colleges have industrial liaison committees but if the BFA’s experience is an example, there is a long way to go before they deliver the sort of graduates the industry needs.
Richard Kottler is chief executive of the British Footwear Association