Tomlinson proposals could ease skills gap

first_img Comments are closed. Related posts:No related photos. Previous Article Next Article Few in HR will have missed the publication of the Tomlinson report thisweek. It promises the biggest shake up in secondary education for some 50years. The issue is far too important for knee-jerk reactions, and companieswill need to see the entire package of the proposals, as well as the finalreport due in the autumn, before giving any firmer endorsement to the proposedchanges. Take a walk round some companies and you will find that for the vastmajority, the subjects of basic skills, recruitment and retention of the mosttalented staff are right at the top of the agenda. Evidence abounds that thelack of basic skills is damaging to UK productivity and is a major reasonbehind the gap with our major competitors. “Give us the tools and we will do the job,” Winston Churchill onceremarked. But how many of the right tools will the proposed changes toeducation outlined in the Tomlinson report give to employers? The emphasis on placing vocational education on a par with the traditionalacademic route is of great significance for manufacturing employers, especiallywith the commitment to integrate modern apprenticeships and other vocationalqualifications into the proposed diploma framework. This should help to ensurevocational qualifications are seen to be of equal value to academic ones, and encouragemany more people to consider courses such as engineering GCSEs and advancedmodern apprenticeships. Industry will also strongly endorse the working group’s concerns about thequality of informed and impartial guidance being given to 14 to 19-year-oldsduring their education and training. A recent survey of first year apprenticesconfirmed that most are being offered little or no information on post-16options other than full-time education. Failure to provide more resources forsuch guidance will result in the greater emphasis on vocational education andqualifications being left dead in the water. The EEF will be urging theChancellor to devote greater resources to this in the forthcoming spendingreview. However, while the report hits many of the right notes, manufacturingcompanies will reserve judgement on the ‘specialist diplomas’ until they seeexactly how they will be designed. The working group’s efforts to tackle thearbitrary distinction between academic, vocational and occupational courses iswelcome, it is vital that the new qualifications maintain the standard set bythe current system of GCSEs and A-levels if they are to gain the confidence ofemployers. People know what they are buying with the current system of qualifications.Whichever way the new ones are designed, it is vital that they do not lose theclear credibility that currently exists and which young people and employersclearly understand. By Ian Peters, Director of external affairs, Engineering Employers Federation(EEF) Tomlinson proposals could ease skills gapOn 24 Feb 2004 in Personnel Todaylast_img read more

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Costs push food inflation to 4%

first_imgFood inflation rose to 4% during October, affected by poor harvests, rising production costs and commodity price increases.In the British Retail Consortium (BRC) and Nielsen Shop Price Index for last month, the level of food inflation for fresh and ambient produce rose by 0.9% on September, affecting the level of overall shop price inflation which increased to 1.5% in October.Stephen Robertson, director general at the BRC, said: “Overall shop price inflation is still low, but pressure from food has edged it up. After three months of stability, food is being hit by a combination of poor harvests, rising production costs and previous commodity cost rises working through.“In particular, the wet summer and higher feed costs are affecting vegetables and meat and poor supplies on world markets are making the ingredients for some manufactured foods more expensive.”He added that the above costs started to drop during the last quarter of the year, which promised to help ease pressure in the run-up to Christmas, as retailers started to push promotional activity and discounts to attract more shoppers.Mike Watkins, senior manager, retailer services, Nielsen, said: “With weakened demand, there is intense price competition across all retail channels, especially on discretionary items, and this is keeping inflation low. However, it’s difficult to predict the levels of retail sales in the run-up to Christmas and, with cost price increases now being reflected in some food price inflation, this will inevitably make shoppers more cautious.“Even so, with retailers maintaining promotional activity, there are sure to be some excellent deals out there for the savvy shopper.”Non-food prices remained at the same level in October following a 0.2% decline in September.last_img read more

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Making the most of meals

first_imgHarvard University recently launched an effort to address chronic hunger among its neighbors in Cambridge and Boston by partnering with the local nonprofit Food for Free to donate nearly 2,000 nutritious meals each week to families in need. The initiative builds on Harvard’s long commitment of community engagement, which includes extensive partnerships with local schools and creating and preserving affordable housing.To ensure that breakfast, lunch, and dinner are available for every undergraduate, Harvard University Dining Services regularly purchases more food than is actually consumed. In the past, excess fresh food has been composted. The new program ensures that untouched food is instead provided to those who need it.Graphic by Georgia Bellas/Harvard Staff“This is a new initiative ― a new type of idea,” said Sasha Purpura, executive director of Cambridge-based Food for Free. “The food from Harvard is very healthy, easy to reheat, and simple to serve. None of it has to be cooked from scratch, which is not only time-consuming, but oftentimes not possible as some of our recipients live in motels or on the street where cooking options don’t exist. This is a new way of doing food redistribution and it has really been making a difference in the battle on hunger.”According to surveys, one in nine residents of Eastern Massachusetts doesn’t know where the next meal will come from, with nearly half of the group made up of children and seniors. The Greater Boston Food Bank alone has seen a 21 percent increase in requests for food assistance since 2008. Meanwhile, roughly a third of the food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted, according to the United Nations Environmental Programme.“Every day, too many families and individuals are forced to make very difficult choices — choices between eating or paying rent or utility bills,” said Meredith Weenick, Harvard’s vice president for campus services, which oversees HUDS. “At the same time, Harvard is aggressively seeking to minimize consumption and waste while implementing sustainable programs that increase efficient use of all that we consume on campus. Our partnership with Food for Free assures that any food we offer our students beyond what is utilized also serves our neighbors, so this really is a win-win for everyone involved.”In Harvard’s 14 undergraduate dining halls, the challenge is to maintain a menu that matches the demand of students, nearly 98 percent of whom live on campus and participate in the meal plan. As such, every location has a modest amount of food beyond what is consumed ― including salads, soups, main dishes, and sides. On an average day, the dining halls feed breakfast, lunch, and dinner to more than 6,600 students. That comes to nearly 20,000 meals a day.While HUDS continually monitors consumption, it is impossible to predict precisely how many students will eat and how much they will eat at any given meal. Since 2005, a student peer-to-peer outreach program designed to reduce food waste has halved the amount food being discarded that could otherwise be donated. (Composting has been and will remain part of Harvard’s extensive waste-reduction efforts.)Harvard tested the program last summer using the excess from Annenberg dining hall. Based on its success, all 14 dining halls on campus were brought into the program. In a typical week during the academic year, Harvard may donate up to 2,500 pounds of quality food that was never served. Given that the average meal is 1.3 pounds, each week approximately 2,000 meals are donated to needy families. In the six months since the program began, Harvard has donated more than 40,000 pounds of food.“HUDS has long been committed to giving back to the local community through food donations and various philanthropic activities,” said Managing Director David Davidson. “But this new Harvard food program formalizes and greatly enhances this giving in a way that is more effective, more wide-reaching, and more in line with the University’s commitment to sustainability.”The Harvard Sustainability Plan, released in October 2014, set an on-campus per capita waste-reduction goal of 50 percent by 2020. The Harvard Food Better campaign is engaging the entire University community in a dialogue about the food system, including waste. The Deans’ Food System Challenge, hosted by the Harvard Innovation Lab, is bringing together teams to develop solutions that make the food system more healthy and sustainable.“This new program further demonstrates Harvard’s interest in partnering with providers in the community to create innovative efforts to support local families,” said Kevin Casey, associate vice president for public affairs and communications. “This is a wonderful example of what can happen when local organizations work together to help meet an important community need.”“This is a sustainable program that reflects Food for Free’s mission to address the needs of local families on a daily basis,” said Purpura. “It is a model that is replicable and we hope that our pilot program with Harvard will both feed families and raise awareness at other institutions of higher learning and organizations in Cambridge. We are incredibly excited about this partnership and are looking forward to doing much more in the coming months.”The Cambridge Community Center, which is adjacent to the Peabody Terrace complex, is one of the local organizations receiving donations. The center serves 40 families a week through its after-school program, and has also served the food during family night gatherings and other special events. Eventually the center will have the ability to send after-school students home with meals for their families. A contribution from Harvard helped the center purchase a commercial freezer for storing donations.“These meals can make a real difference for some of our most vulnerable families. We are proud to work with Harvard, Food for Free, and other local organizations in helping to feed our community healthy, wholesome, and delicious food,” said Darrin Korte, director of programs at the Cambridge Community Center.last_img read more

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