Research has suggested some ways to measure student motivation and a set of questions has been developed for a student questionnaire and focus group meeting. Students may be amotivated (Hoskins and Newstead, 2009), sometimes as a result of experiences on their courses and it is worth investigating this in my own students. Hoskins and Newstead (2009) suggested that 'poor feedback and support may promote mediocrity' and that if students perceive tasks to be 'vocationally relevant' then those tasks have a higher value and can be more motivating. They also highlighted the problem of high workload and its effect on students' tendency to adopt a deeper approach to their learning. This factor must be considered when measuring levels of motivation as there could be a correlation between levels of motivation when a task is being carried out in isolation and when a task is being completed alongside a number of other tasks of equal importance to their success on their course.
With reference to employer engagement, barriers to participation in skill development for employers from SMEs could be similar to those identified by Kerr and McDougall (1999) in connection with training participation by employees of SMEs. These included:
SMEs showed a preference for informal training in a study by Anderson et al (2001) and this type of training was characterised by feedback, experience, social interaction between individuals and organisations. Johnston and Loader (2003) illustrated a half-day training model that appealed to SME employers due to its half-day workshop model and its low cost. The cost was kept low by the course provider by keeping to a half day and by opening the course to other interested parties and delivering it in an educational establishment rather than at the employer's premises. The course was also completely stand-alone requiring no further commitment unless wanted. Again, lessons can be learnt from this model in terms of the sort of activity an employer might be willing to be involved in with full-time college students. If it is short, has low costs in terms of time and expenses, is open to the employer's own employees as well as college students and does not represent an ongoing commitment, then it may prove attractive to the employer, who might then be more willing to be involved
Tallantyre(2010), in response to the Leitch report of 2006 which highlighted the need to make HE available to the workforce (in a number of ways), suggested that traditional models (full-time study followed by placement or including placement, day-release courses) need to be replaced by more innovative, flexible solutions. Tallantyre identified, among other needs, the need to deploy forms of assessment perceived to be relevant to work activity.
The University of Derby Corporate (UDC), again in response to Leitch (2006), was set up to create a work-based learning offer aimed at persuading more employers to work with the university. The UDC aimed its activities at learners in the workplace identifying that organisational staff were needed at institutional and faculty level and, importantly, at programme level as this is where the verification that needs are being met by students and employers within the demands of the curriculum and standards.
The challenge for further education, as full-time participation becomes compulsory until the age of 18, is to bring some of this activity into the full-time classroom, to take some benefits of work-based learning and apply them in a realistic way to the learning of a student cohort that is largely under 18 and therefore raises some concerns in terms of child protection where a student spends the majority of their time in the workplace.
I would argue that there is a need to make FE available to the workforce using different models from those in HE, models that are more education based but no less innovative or flexible. As identified by the UDC, an investment in the placing of relevant, trained staff at institutional, faculty and, especially, at programme level where staff have industry and subject knowledge important to the process. These models would include assessment relevant to work activity and, I would argue, of use to the business community.