You needn’t give up the day job to gain a degree or qualification for better your prospects. Dr David Knight explains how.
PEOPLE in full-time work can still top-up their knowledge, gain new skills or earn a qualification.
They can do it through the Open University in the North, which covers both the North-East and Cumbria. Putting a career on hold to go in for further studies is not an option many people will choose.
But learning through the Open University can help them gain professional qualifications and progress faster in their career. While improving the region’s collective skills and knowledge base, it also has a positive overspill effect on the regional economy.
As regional director of The Open University in the North, I am proud that our 5,500 students, 67 full-time staff and 440 part-time tutors, make a significant contribution to the prosperity of the region.
We have partnerships with employers to promote professional and management skills that deliver business results. We’ve been advising companies like Northern Rock and Ikea on options available to develop their workforces.
Typically, this can range from sponsoring individual staff on courses to company-wide training and bespoke programmes.
Our shorter, focused courses are designed to meet the immediate learning or development needs of busy professionals. Continuing professional development courses are available in a variety of subjects, ranging from leadership skills to food preservation.
Most of our online courses only require 30 hours of study over a period to suit the learner.
Collaboration is the key to prosperity, and we are working with higher and further education institutions, trade unions and other organisations in the region to set up lifelong learning networks. As a member of NOF Energy (previously known as Northern Offshore Federation), the university offers business support to the marine, offshore and renewable energy sectors through training and human resource forums.
This partnership has opened up a network in a number of companies in the North-East, and we have already delivered programmes, including the OU Business School’s project management, to companies like Caterpillar.
The Open University and Unionlearn signed a memorandum of understanding in 2006 to promote lifelong learning to trade unionists. Unionlearn in our region has members working in diverse sectors such as retail, manufacturing, printing, the civil service and public sector. Bridges to Learning is another innovative partnership between The Open University, Unison, the Workers’ Educational Association (WEA) and Learning Links in the Northern Region to promote learning opportunities for employees in health and social care and other key employment areas.
But we haven’t forgotten the younger generation. We are involved in a partnership of higher education institutions which is seeking funding to encourage language education in the North-East through tasters, events and activities in primary schools.
The recent Dearing report recommended all primary school children should be taught a language, so this is an exciting area for us. We are also looking at offering residential summer courses to talented children in co-operation with Durham University.
The region recently received £45,000 to support a wide range of events and activities aimed at encouraging communities and individuals who would not otherwise have considered entering higher education to take it up.
We are also corporate members of the Tyne and Wear Foundation and the County Durham Foundation, which give grants to small charitable causes in the region.
The Open University in the North is truly at the heart of the region, and we are proud to serve our community in this way!
Dr David Knight is regional director of The Open University in the North.