Quality Improvement in Adult Vocational Earning and Training - Transforming Skills for the Global Economy

Industrial and Commercial Training

ISSN: 0019-7858

Article publication date: 11 July 2008



Cattell, A. (2008), "Quality Improvement in Adult Vocational Earning and Training - Transforming Skills for the Global Economy", Industrial and Commercial Training, Vol. 40 No. 5. https://doi.org/10.1108/ict.2008.03740eae.002



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Quality Improvement in Adult Vocational Earning and Training - Transforming Skills for the Global Economy

Article Type: Bookshelf From: Industrial and Commercial Training, Volume 40, Issue 5

Nick Perry and David Sherlock,Kogan Page,London, UK and Philadelphia, USA,2008,212 pp.,ISBN: 9780749451035,£40, US$79 (hardback),

In this text Perry and Sherlock share their experience and learning as key driving forces within the Adult Learning Inspectorate and subsequently as directors of an international quality improvement consultancy. The book has implications for international, national and organizational vocational educational training policymakers across sectors and for educators, trainers and learners in general.

The authors guide the reader through the development of their own ideas and experience and identify the requirements for success in an increasingly global skills market. David Blunkett MP in his Forward to the text states “As we in England move towards a system with greater provider ownership and self ownership, this book sets out clearly the fundamentals that have to be mastered to drive up quality in any form of technical and vocational education and training.” The authors themselves observe “This book sets out our experience and techniques for making that first small difference and building bigger differences from it”.

In doing so Perry and Sherlock initially offer a solution to the challenges of attaining continuous improvement in learning which they call The Transformational Diamond.

The main facets to the Diamond cover:

  • Aspiration to excellence.

  • Assessment of position on the path to excellence.

  • Assistance for weak but aspiring organizations.

  • Accumulation of good practice.

This model is identified early in the text and applied practically in later chapters. The authors summarise that The Transformational Diamond is “a coherent, planned, comprehensive set of actions offered by one organization but conscious of the work of others”.

In addition a new template – The Quality Assessment Framework for self-assessment and independent quality assessment is described in relation to value of qualifications, measuring added value, effective learning, equality and diversity, matching learning to learners, support for learning, assessing leadership, and grading.

Aspects of assessment in terms of methods, credible observation and feedback are commented on and the use of self assessment and of data are contained in specific chapters. Salutary advice on the consequences of not using these is made through the statement that “there is no point in assessing quality if you do not act on the information gained”.

The very pragmatic approach adopted by the authors through their work at the Adult Learning Inspectorate is captured when they outline the introduction of the Provider Development Unit as a support mechanism to providers of technical and vocational education, learning and training. The reality of what this offered and the legacy it left is well described. In similar context, the building of a national quality movement incorporating cross boundary networks, development of shared learning materials and good practice and provision of online information as a resource to all interested parties is further evidence of the practical approach taken by Perry and Sherlock.

The final chapters of the book cover persuading providers and learners to consider quality improvement as a key facet of learning and highlighting the importance of the Transformational Diamond in proving that such improvement is in fact necessary. The last chapter of the book explores utilising and adapting the Diamond to different organizations and international and cultural contexts.

The text provides an exhaustive and unique account of the VET quality improvement journey of the authors complemented by the case study experiences of leading workplace learning providers. The reader is left in no doubt that failure to address national skill needs within an expanding global economy is not an option. The passion of Perry and Sherlock for the topic is very much in evidence as is the feeling that this book is work in progress as a precursor to continuation of their journey and sharing of their experience with a larger more international audience. Whilst a potential reader may consider the topic area to be “dry”, the authors have succeeded in writing a very human and inclusive text.

Perry and Sherlock state “This book is our return for the privileges we have received as Inspectors. It codifies our ideas and relates them to the acute challenges to raise productivity – national, organizational and individual – which faces every country seeking prosperity in an open global market… We offer ourselves as guides to anyone bold enough to innovate and experiment.”

As a story which identifies successes and failures, issues and challenges faced and needs to be addressed in future, the book offers hope and advice to those bold enough to meet the challenge above.

Alan Cattell

Related articles