On Thursday morning I spent some time at Webster’s Theatre in Arbroath attending a joint meeting of our primary and secondary head teachers. At the start of a new year, and a new term, those familiar with the world of education will not be surprised to hear there was a buzz in the room, even with the council’s Chief Executive coming along to tell his audience how tough the year ahead will be in financial terms. And I did not miss that opportunity.
In the time allowed at the end of my session for Q and A a number of comments were made about the extent to which our schools are not as joined up as they could be with the council’s efforts to transform communities and in particular our community planning and engagement processes. There was, I think, a clear willingness to be more engaged with that work and to make a contribution.
As we refresh our Community Planning Partnership, and in particular the localities model, we need to make sure that we go beyond seeing our schools only as places for formal learning. They are at the heart of our communities in so many more ways. At the same time colleagues across the council need to think more about how well we are aligned with the efforts schools are making to give our young people the best possible opportunity to be happy, healthy, safe and successful.
I went to the Courier’s Business Briefing event this week at Forbes of Kingennie. The main speaker was Keith Cochrane, MD of Weir Group, Scotland’s biggest business. After Keith’s speech, which was about global business perspectives and the secrets of Weir’s success over the last 100+ years, there was panel Q and A with Keith, Tim Allan of Dundee Chamber and MD Unicorn Properties and me. Keith also spoke about technology and the pace of change which is impacting on every industry including ours. More of that in a moment.
It wasn’t the topic for the event but the main thrust of the Q and A was certainly towards a debate about the young work force and in particular the interface between education and employers. I think contributions from the panel and the floor confirmed that there are schools and teachers that do indeed “get it” as far as the role of schools and colleges in supporting the country’s industry and commerce is concerned, but also confirmed that there is a lot more to do.
One thing I have been thinking about arising from the “digital” and “technology” conversation that day is the question of how ready our council work styles and work places are to accommodate the expectations and skills of the incoming young worker. These are people who, as schools increasingly get it right, will be anticipating a dynamic, agile digitally focussed work place, and be equipped with the skills to operate in that environment.
Keith Cochrane was clear that Weir, like all successful businesses, embraces change, grabs new technologies with both hands and looks to capitalise on the skills and expectations of young workers. Can we in local government say the same with any confidence?