Unemployment is a growing problem right across the UK, particularly among young people, with more than one million under-25s now out of work. This means that educational providers need to deliver more proactive support than ever before to people who may be struggling to find their direction in life. This is why we’re supporting the government’s ‘Welfare to Work’ initiative and employability agenda, which provides routes into training and employment.
It’s clear that the landscape for Welfare to Work is changing and job outcomes are a key priority of current government thinking. With this in mind, I believe skills, and therefore qualifications, have a vital role to play in helping people secure sustainable employment in the current environment.
Here at NCFE we’ve developed a new package of qualifications specifically designed to support the government’s Welfare to Work initiative, helping learners and job seekers gain employment through re-training and vocational learning pathways.
Our ‘Get Set for Work’ package brings together all of our qualifications which can help the unemployed develop their skills and achieve worthwhile qualifications, leading eventually to secure employment. It also recognises that a skilled mature worker who has recently been made redundant will have very different needs and expectations to a young person who is entering the job market for the first time.
NCFE recently hosted a conference in York to look at how the education sector can engage with the Welfare to Work initiative. This recognised the key role that qualification providers have to play in the employability agenda and demonstrated how our Get Set for Work qualifications will help unemployed people develop their personal and employability skills.
The concept of welfare to work, as opposed to the recent government programme of the same name, has been a political hot potato for years, with many politicians and trade unions opposed to any legislation that places a compulsion on jobseekers to enter training. In reality, this programme is more of a carrot than a stick, providing structured learning and support for unemployed people who need it.
There is, of course, nothing new about an organisation like NCFE helping people into work; in fact it is one of the core aims of our organisation, which is why we are keen to engage with the Welfare to Work initiative. In partnership with training providers, our Get Set for Work package of qualifications will help to ensure the right provision is in place to meet the aims and outcomes of the initiative.
Get Set for Work is a structured series of qualifications than can be applied to young people or more experienced jobseekers, ranging from entry level courses in Making Progress to a Level 2 Certificate in Working in the Health Sector. All of the qualifications provide the skills and attributes that employers will look for, equipping learners to have confidence in their own skills and abilities.
All qualifications allow learners to gain a thorough grounding in their chosen area of study, with a low number of guided learning hours so that they can fit the qualification in with other commitments and find time to look for employment opportunities. This is a specific requirement of the Welfare to Work initiative, which empowers unemployed people to develop their own life skills alongside vocational learning.
Where no specific qualification covers the needs of a particular learner, we can give education providers the tools and information they need to design and deliver a bespoke learning programme through our Accreditation Services. We’ll provide quality assurance for all of these tailored programmes, giving employers the assurance that the student has been robustly assessed and received a high standard of teaching.
With 400 qualifications over five different levels, we’re confident that there will be a qualification to suit almost every jobseeker in the UK. Vocational learning pathways meet all of the key goals laid out within the governments Welfare to Work initiative, offering the skills and support that people need to advance in their current career or find a new one.
There has been much discussion in the media about unemployed people, especially the young and long-term benefit claimants, being forced into job roles or training that are unsuited to their skills and qualifications. We believe that the flexible approach offered by the range of qualifications within our Get Set for Work package will help JobCentre Plus staff liaise with individuals and training providers to ensure that this does not happen.
In a challenging economic environment, with high unemployment and limited job opportunities, the government has to take action and we fully support the Welfare to Work initiative. While it may not be perfect, it does give us an opportunity to present a structured solution to the needs of those who may be facing an uncertain future and a stressful financial situation.
David Grailey is the chief executive of NCFE, the qualification awarding body
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