From education to employment

Learners should be priority #1 in further education, but that’s not always the case

Benn Carson, Founder, Carson Recruitment

The idea might seem self-evident. Training is all about the training or, to put it another way, training is all about the learners. 


But time and time again I see business owners focusing most of their attention anywhere but the learners.

Typically they’re obsessed with business development, constant expansion, more and more bums in seats. In short: they’re blinded by the £££s. 

Getting too focused on short term expansion and profit is this industry’s number one way of ending up with no learners AND no profit.

Learners aren’t stupid; they know whether a course is valuable for them, especially when they finally hit the job market. Just pushing any old learner through the door isn’t going to help anyone.

A learner’s basic journey through your programme consists of recruitment, retention, and only then reward. Keep reading for my thoughts about each stage of this process and some of the most common mistakes I see providers make.


Recruitment is all about the right learners, at the right time, in the right place.

I’ve seen countless examples of learners being put on the wrong programmes – it doesn’t fit, it’s too much, it’s too high level, and they drop out. 

Concerns like housing, caring responsibilities, drug and alcohol use, etc. are often the root cause for dropping out. Giving learners the space to raise issues will allow you to signpost to any needed external support.

The big question here is: who am I training?  Why are they here, what are they looking to get out of this, and are they capable of achieving that here? 

Consider timing carefully if you’re planning to launch a new offering. Are individual learners in a place in their life which will realistically allow success? Are current events likely to disrupt your delivery or pipeline of learners? 

Finally, where are you targeting your recruitment efforts? Traditional advertising, pay per click, organic search, social media? Which social media?

This shouldn’t be a hard sell; save that for commissioners. You need a pipeline of learners who will benefit from your provision and are likely to succeed. More importantly, you need to build your provision around those learners. So this should be based on honest and supportive conversations between providers and learners.

If this step isn’t done right, your entire programme is a waste of time for everyone. Worse still, it actively damages your success rates and causes learners to miss out on more suitable opportunities and even find themselves in debt.


Recruitment is important, but it’s useless if you don’t retain learners. So it’s up to you to make sure your programme is fit for purpose and it suits the learner so that they progress and so you get paid.

When it comes to retention, quality is king.

If you keep on top of your quality systems and make good decisions based on the information they provide, the rest will fall into place. The insights they provide are your compass for ensuring consistent and excellent delivery.

If you’re not 100% confident in your approach to quality, you should drop everything you’re doing right now and get it sorted.


Only having recruited the right learners and steered them to success will the rewards come. But even at this stage, it’s easy to get distracted by the pound signs. 

You need to get paid to keep your business afloat. But the rewards to your learners are equally important. That means progression, whether it’s on to further high quality training or employment. Once you’ve got your learners over the line, it’s time to support them to take the next step. 

Successful learners are some of your greatest marketing tools. Being able to point to a high level of lasting progressions is the ultimate acid test for a training offer, while learners who have enjoyed success will be more likely to send their peers your way.

Your programme can be perfect but if learners don’t see the benefit, they’ll have nothing good to say about you or your business. So you better make sure you have the infrastructure and partnerships to help your learners move on to something that’s meaningful to them.

Once you have a successful programme which delivers consistent achievement rates and progressions, you’re in a great place to sell that product to primes, commissioners, and learners.

But if you fail to make learners your central consideration at every stage of the journey, that’s little more than a pipe dream.

Benn Carson, Founder, Carson Recruitment

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