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Employers and educationalists will come together at a major conference this month to debate ways of developing life...
Employers and educationalists will come together at a major conference this month to debate ways of developing lifelong learning in Surrey and the Thames Valley.

The free conference on Tuesday 21 September is hosted by Royal Holloway, University of London, at Egham, together with Surrey CC and Surrey Training and Enterprise Council.

It is fully booked and the 150 delegates include business and community leaders and senior figures in secondary, further and higher education. Key speakers include Nick Wilson, director of Skills and Enterprise for the Government Office for the South East, and Tom Schuller, professor of lifelong learning at the university's Birkbeck College, who between them will set the agenda.

British Airways' assessment manager, Julie Langridge-John, will give the employers' perspective, and Paul Gray, Surrey CC's director of education, is to talk about improving access to learning opportunities and progression from one stage to the next.

The conference has two main aims. First, to examine policy and emerging trends in the national context, and, second, to look at practical measures and lay the groundwork for future collaboration between the public and private sectors.

In its Green Paper, The Learning Age, the government puts lifelong learning as a top priority for improving people's employment prospects and contributing to a vibrant economy, as well as improving their quality of life in general.

Conference organiser David Shepheard, Royal Holloway's dean of admissions, said: 'The South-East region has a high level of high-tech and service industry employers. In these areas there is a constant demand for skills updating to keep up with the astonishing pace of change, in IT, in management and in technology in general.

'Employees are recognising that the job for life has gone and that re-training several times in one working life is becoming the norm. Employers realise that keeping valuable, loyal staff means integrating professional development into the careers they offer. Education institutions know that they must respond to the training needs of business and industry.'

The conference will break down into discussion groups which will focus on: how education is using information technology to respond to business needs; how to meet the needs of new groups of learners and encourage them into higher education; and how to meet the recruitment and professional development needs of high-technology businesses, using the biotechnology industry as a case study.

There will also be a session on identifying key priorities for the lifelong learning plans for Surrey which are being developed by the partner organisations.

At the end of the conference, Surrey CC's chief executive, Paul Coen, will review the group discussions and draw conclusions about the next steps.

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