Education is the key to getting Britain's economy growing again, The Open University's Vice-Chancellor Martin Bean has said.
Speaking to senior political figures from the three main parties during the conference season, he stressed the need for employers and employees to up-skill and re-skill so that British businesses can face the challenges of the 21st century.
Martin Bean said: "In building the economy, we can't afford to wait up to a decade for today's children to complete years of school, university and training. We need to see a shift from traditional, classroom-based programmes to alternatives that integrate learning into the workplace.
"Part-time online study with The Open University allows today's workers to 'earn while they learn', bringing immediate benefits to their workplace. Some employers have asked me what happens if they educate a worker only to see them leave, but surely the bigger question is what will happen if you don't educate your staff and they stay?"
Top companies have already embraced the OU's unique model of flexible and online working, with 80% of FTSE 100 companies sponsoring staff on Open University (OU) courses. The OU's open access model ensures that skills and training are accessible for everyone - 20% of the OU's newest undergraduates come from the UK's 25% most disadvantaged communities.
It was a message that resounded with delegates at all three party conferences:
• At the Liberal Democrat conference in Brighton the Vice-Chancellor debated the role of Higher Education with Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills Vince Cable and an audience of senior figures from the worlds of business and education at an event hosted by CentreForum;
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