How are colleges meeting international demand for skills training?

As the demand for skills increases across the world, now is the time for UK colleges to play their part says Vicky Pyle, international business manager at Edinburgh College…

By 2030, it is predicted that emerging economies will contribute 65 percent of the global GDP. The demand for skilled labour is growing faster than supply, against a backdrop of ageing populations. Yet too many countries are not equipped to provide their young people with a high-quality education that meets their national skills demand. To address this, governments across the world have developed skills strategies that emphasise English language improvement, upskilling teachers and developing a vocational curriculum that matches the skills required by employers. To achieve this, they look to international education systems for support. As a result, there is more opportunity for the UK’s strong vocational sector to play its part in supporting this development.

UK colleges can provide support by facilitating teacher training and continuing professional development for public and private sector organisations in areas such as cultural awareness, management, leadership, and HR. Colleges can deliver offset training for companies and offer a range of consultancy services to employers. Edinburgh College, one of the largest colleges in the UK, is already helping our international network of partners develop their workforce of the future.

Edinburgh College is working with the Panamanian Ministry of Education to train both English language teachers and teachers of other subjects at primary and secondary level. Through our highly experienced English Language Centre, which provides year-round English language programmes and specialist courses, the college has trained more than 170 teachers at our campuses in Edinburgh, and just recently delivered agriculture teacher training and technical English development in partnership with Scotland’s Rural College for the Panamanian Ministry of Agriculture. In China, the college partners with regional education departments to provide specialist training programmes and we have now delivered to more than 700 English language teachers.

In Saudi Arabia, Edinburgh College has a longstanding partnership with the Technical and Vocational Corporation (TVTC) and has just delivered a suite of training programmes in Edinburgh for 120 TVTC vocational professionals. To date, we have trained more than 500 TVTC teachers and senior managers in subjects including English for Technical Purposes, Engineering Skills (using our on-campus oil test-rig), Executive Management, Quality Assurance and Accounting.

In Brazil, the college was one of five UK colleges selected by the Brazilian Ministry of Tourism to pilot a three-month government-funded study-abroad programme for Tourism and Hospitality undergraduates. With the rise of the service industries internationally, the students gained invaluable insight into the tourism and hospitality sector in the UK and received training in customer care, tourism marketing and tour guiding, as well as work experience in one of Edinburgh College’s commercial training restaurants.

The creative industries, too, are booming. Not only does Edinburgh College play its part by training students here in the UK across a range of creative and digital programmes, but also by working closely with businesses across Scotland to support and promote the next generation of creative industry SMEs. Our business incubator Creative Exchange, in partnership with the City of Edinburgh Council, is twinned with a new incubator in Shenzhen, China, allowing companies from both sides to explore international markets.

The expertise in technical training and English language training that colleges in the UK offer, like Edinburgh College, is hugely valuable to our friends around the world, who are determined to upskill their young people and help them get into employment that supports sustainable economic growth.

There is much the sector can offer internationally, and, indeed, much we can learn as we move towards closing the global skills gaps and developing the workforce of the future.

For more information on Edinburgh’s College’s work with industry and in international education, please contact Victoria Pyle, International Business Manager: Victoria.pyle@edinburghcollege.ac.uk