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 +A Sustainable Information Society
 +=================================
 +
 +\
 + or how to achieve Competitiveness with Social Inclusion\
 + by Chris Yapp, Managing Consultant, ICL Lifelong Learning\
 +
 +Competitiveness lies at the heart of much of the debate about the
 +emerging Global Information Society. It is argued that globalisation and
 +technological change are changing the basis of competition. Increasing
 +the economic value-added of the UK economy requires us to raise the
 +knowledge and skills of all our workforce.\
 +\
 + At the same time we are seeing major changes in the structure of
 +employment in the UK with increased emphasis on Small and Medium
 +Enterprises,​ SME's as the engine for job creation rather than large
 +organisations. Increases in self-employment,​ part-time and casual
 +working are all well documented. What this adds up to is a changing
 +lifestyle for individuals,​ away from a job for life to a search for
 +lifetime employability.\
 +\
 + Where as, only a generation ago, a single set of skills acquired by the
 +age of thirty or so would have carried most people through to
 +retirement, the need to retrain to stay employable is recognised at all
 +levels of the workforce. But is '​Lifelong learning for all' merely a
 +slogan, or could we actually achieve it? Furthermore,​ is it actually
 +desirable and affordable ?\
 +\
 + ​Lifelong learning for all implies a number of issues that need to be
 +addressed:
 +
 +-   ​Creating a national culture that values lifelong learning
 +-   ​Access to lifelong learning
 +-   '​Content'​ relevant to each individuals lifelong learning needs.
 +
 +It is here that the technologies of the so-called information
 +superhighway come into the picture. It is quite clear from the macro
 +economic data that scaling up current expenditure on education and
 +training by both public and private sectors using current models will
 +not cope with a need to retrain the whole workforce maybe three or four
 +times through adult life. The promise of the technology is the ability
 +to re-engineer existing expenditure to deliver more effective education
 +and training.\
 +\
 + But this leads us to a '​cultural'​ problem in the UK. Surely, IT is for
 +white male anorak nerds of 25 and under? If you're over 40 you're
 +effectively brain dead and will never adjust. If we take the last two
 +sentences seriously, then we will create a serious problem for all of
 +us.\
 +\
 + If we create an environment in which we have information haves and have
 +nots, then the proportion of our adults who will fall below the minimum
 +skills for employability will increase with increased social costs on
 +industry. A situation where fewer and fewer companies become more and
 +more competitive will not create a competitive UK PLC.\
 +\
 + But wait! Isn't it also true that SME's are slow to spend on training?
 +Do they find it hard to justify in both costs and time? This may sound
 +quite gloomy! It is very easy to end up in a spiral in which we can't
 +afford to do it and we can't afford not to.\
 +\
 + Over two years ago ICL started working with the South Bristol Learning
 +Network on the development of Cyberskills. Over that time we have
 +trained people from 17 to 84 in a variety of technologies including
 +CD-ROMs, the Internet/​World Wide Web and Video Conferencing. These
 +people have covered all social and economic classes, abilities and
 +public, private and voluntary sectors. We now have a dozen Cyberskills
 +centres in the UK and our first US export. What is significant is that
 +the materials for the sessions were developed and delivered by
 +previously unemployed people with no experience of IT, some of whom were
 +in their 50's.\
 +\
 + What has been a delight is to see some of the debilitating myths that I
 +outlined earlier demolished along with many pleasant surprises on the
 +way. If sensitively handled age, gender, and ability prove to be limited
 +obstacles to the use of new technologies. Furthermore,​ even in areas of
 +low expectations and attainment we have seen positive outcomes. With
 +school children, even where education is '​uncool'​ it is OK to be good at
 +sport and IT.\
 +\
 + In our educational trials we are seeing many children engage with
 +learning through IT when traditional classroom practise has been
 +unsuccessful. With adults, even if they '​failed'​ at school, they didn't
 +fail at IT because it wasn't around. We have seen many examples where IT
 +has been a catalyst to re-engage adults with the learning process and
 +raised their perception of their own capabilities. This has led us to an
 +approach that we call "​People First, Technology Second"​.\
 +\
 + Our experience to date suggest that there is a great appetite in the UK
 +for learning in all sectors of our society. The goal is to harness this
 +energy for economic and social well-being.\
 +\
 + ​Looking at international comparisons of UK performance in educational
 +and training performance,​ the general picture is that the UK's top
 +10-15% of education and training is globally competitive,​ but what dogs
 +our competitiveness is the bottom quartile in particular. In the
 +Department for Education and Employment'​s Lifetime learning consultation
 +document there is an estimate that the failure to achieve basic skills
 +costs the UK £5bn. Anecdotal evidence indicates high levels of learning
 +difficulties in the prison population compared to the population as a
 +whole. Industry , government and all of us are paying the costs of under
 +performance.\
 +\
 + It is my contention that the way out of the can't afford/not to paradox
 +is to look at the costs we bear as a society already. It then becomes
 +apparent that the purpose of '​educational superhighways'​ in the UK
 +context should be to accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative.
 +That is to say, build on our best practice and eliminate the costs of
 +under performance. I am not suggesting that there is a quick fix or that
 +it will be easy. But surely it is in our enlightened self-interest to
 +address our selves to the UK's long-term systemic concerns? Full
 +employability is needed if we are to ever approach full employment.\
 +\
 + ​Social inclusion and competitiveness are often portrayed as
 +incompatible. I believe that globalisation and technical change make
 +this a damaging fallacy. We live in an era where the old rules don't
 +work anymore. Too much of the focus in the debate is around technology
 +and not the people and the society we wish to build. If we use our
 +brains to address the real issues , I have no doubt that British
 +ingenuity is up to the task of building a competitive and more inclusive
 +society .\
 +\
 + ​[Chris Yapp](mailto:​c.g.yapp@iclnet.co.uk) c.g.yapp@iclnet.co.uk\
 + ​Managing Consultant, ICL Lifelong Learning
 +
 +------------------------------------------------------------------------
 +
 +[Success stories from South Bristol Learning Network](profiles)\
 + [The Cyberskills Association](skills)\
 + [Back to the Guide to Community Internet](../​pubs/​guide)
 +
 +
  
partnerships/articles/life.txt · Last modified: 2017/06/12 10:20 (external edit)