Over the past year the National Skills Academy for Financial Services (NSAFS) has been working with the Financial Services Authority (FSA) to deliver financial capability programmes and activities through Further Education colleges.
Financial Capability is increasingly seen as an essential life skill. People need to develop money management skills ranging from personal budgeting, debt management, understanding credit, financial products and types of savings and need to know where to go for support and help. Knowledge in these areas whilst important is not sufficient to create a society which is confident that they are able to make effective use of their income whatever its level. Attitudes and behaviours to money are also important and far more difficult to influence and change.
The current economic climate has led to more people feeling the consequences of unemployment and rising levels of debt. Until the credit crunch hit hard, the general population had become accustomed to easy credit, high levels of employment and an expectation of borrowing to secure a consumer driven lifestyle.
At the Skills Academy we believe that further education colleges are an excellent vehicle to access young people and adults in the local communities. Last year we tested our approach in three of the English regions; the South West; Yorkshire & Humber and London. A total of l 28 colleges worked with us to deliver fun and practical sessions in a ‘Money Week’ that was held in March. We were impressed with the creativity of FE staff to devise activities which helped their learners to think about aspects of personal money management. These activities ranged from testing the difference between own brand and label goods to get best value on shopping bills to budgeting to be ready for independent living. All colleges were invited to celebrate the success of these activities at the home of the Lord Mayor of the City of London who awarded some of the colleges with certificates of recognition.
This year we are doing even more to encourage more colleges to be involved in our financial capability project. In September, the NSAFS regional team spent time at 17 colleges around the country during fresher’s week encouraging learners to make money pledges and highlighting what they could do to change their behaviour in terms of money management. This activity was created last year by our lead college in Yorkshire & Humber, Park Lane College, now Leeds City College. We also asked learners to identify which aspects of money management they wanted help with and one of the emergent themes was that people want help to save money for a rainy day.
We are now expanding our programme to reach 48 colleges to input financial capability into tutorial programmes during the course of this academic year. Last year our lead provider in the West Midlands, Sutton Coldfield College -now Birmingham Metropolitan College- introduced a personal money management short qualification into its tutorial programme for full time learners and reached about 1700 learners. Our regional team working with the FSA, other agencies and financial services employers, are helping to support these tutorials. Last year some of our colleges developed some lesson plans which are available for other colleges to use and we have evaluated the suitability of a wide range of resources to help tutors deliver financial capability sessions.
In March 2010 we plan to hold our biggest ever Money Week, involving at least 75 colleges. Although the approach will be fun and practical, there will be a serious message behind it: ‘if things seem to be too good to be true they probably are’. Again selected colleges and learners will be awarded recognition certificates. Winners and all participating colleges will be invited to our award ceremony next year.
Looking to the future, the need for strong financial and money management skills will continue to be important and we will be establishing regional centres of excellence in the coming months. This approach has worked well in expanding the ability of Further Education Colleges to deliver training and skills to financial services employers. The Skills Academy was established, to create a network of colleges to attract new talent into the industry by delivering programmes and qualifications more relevant to employer needs, and to work with our employers to upskill the workforce. We believe it is also important to educate the wider population in financial and money management skills to have well informed consumers who are able to make sensible decisions. By working with further education colleges we will be able to access large parts of the population and make strong inroads to this important agenda.
Sylvia Perrins is chief executive of the National Skills Academy for Financial Services, the sector’s standard for excellence in training and skills
If your further education college wants to be involved in the Money Week March 2010 project, contact Linda Schofield at [email protected]