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Use knowledge of uk’s top craftsmen and women to make us envy of the world

New report calls for education system to instil ‘craftsmanlike’ qualities

New research commissioned by leaders in skills development City & Guilds says that craftsmanship, a drive for excellence or pride in a job well done, should be embedded into all industries from administration through to agriculture.

To enable this, there is a need to ensure that those training our young people have the most current industry experience. The research calls for colleges and training providers to work with industry leaders and top professionals from each sector to help in the ongoing professional development of staff, supporting the quality of training offered at colleges. Two-way relationships should be built and developed in the same way that universities and hospitals partner to further research and knowledge development.

A Practical Guide to Craftsmanship[1] by Professor Bill Lucas and Dr Ellen Spencer also argues that craftsmanship is inherently learnable and therefore the education system should teach ‘craftsmanlike’ qualities. Part of that teaching involves developing the habits of a craftsman alongside the understanding that a particular skill can be continuously developed through dedication and hard work rather than seeing that same skill as something that an individual is either good at or not.

The report identifies three strands in its thinking about craftsmanship:

  • it’s learnable – there must be an understanding that one can develop the habits of a craftsman through practice and mindset;
  • it’s about becoming – developing a craftsmanlike attitude is about slowly internalising the habits of a craftsman
  •  it’s about the culture – craftsmanlike behaviours are best developed when leaders model their commitment to excellence

Bill Lucas, Director of the Centre for Real-World Learning, who co-authored the report said: “The UK boasts craftspeople of the very highest calibre who are in demand across the world. Many colleges and training providers, as well as schools and universities, have pockets of real excellence. With a resurgence of interest in apprenticeships, we need to redefine craftsmanship for the twenty-first century and remind educators, employers and politicians that craftsmanship in a broad and contemporary sense is part of what we are able to export across the world.”

Kirstie Donnelly, Managing Director, City & Guilds said: “The idea that craftsmanship is teachable is an important concept for the education community and it’s clear from this research that FE, with its close links to industry and focus on contextualised learning, is well placed to deliver this teaching. This research also demonstrates the link between developing a ‘craftsmanlike’ attitude and increasing employee engagement. In a country where productivity levels are so low and skills gaps are being reported across many industry sectors, developing a pride in your profession feels like a vital thing to do.”

The report finds that there has not been a sufficient focus on craftsmanship for a number of reasons including:

  • A decline in tool use in society because people prefer to buy a new item rather than repair a used one.
  • An over-separation of thinking and doing, a disconnection between mind and hands.
  • Some examinations and qualifications exert too much time pressure, which lessens opportunities for craftsmanship.
  • An insufficient understanding about the pedagogies and cultures that cultivate craftsmanship.
  • An increasingly academic focus within schools, which is squeezing out craftsmanship.

Peter Taylor, Director for the Goldsmiths’ Centre, the UK’s leading charity for the professional training of goldsmiths, said: “We are finally beginning to understand just how important the process of craftsmanship is in a wider educational and professional context for the UK. Words and attitudes like pride, reflection, expertise, knowledge, risk taking and commitment are surely ones that all of us can recognise as being valuable, not only from the perspective of crafting an object but in a much wider everyday developmental context.

“At the Goldsmiths’ Centre our educational task is to prepare young people for a fast-paced and quickly evolving world. We believe that a simple set of values gained through learning to make and be creative are core to achieving this. It is gratifying to note that the approach that we are pursuing resonates so fully with the findings of this report.”

The report offers guidance for lecturers on becoming ‘craftsmanlike’:

  • Create a culture where excellence is valued.
  • Slowing things down will ensure learners’ errors are pre-empted.
  • Starting with a goal in mind allows a craftsman to work towards it.
  • Breaking complex tasks down enables workers to practise each in turn.
  • Learners should practise at the edge of their abilities.
  • Recording work and giving feedback leads to quicker improvement.
  • Repetition develops muscle and brain memory.
  • Varying approaches keeps interest levels up.

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