Andrew Roberts Morris is a regional account manager for the Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT)

National Institute of Adult Continuing Education (NIACE) Annual Adult Learners' Week Policy Conference on 19 June provides the opportunity for debate and discussion on the role of lifelong learning and the importance of continual learning to address the skills shortage. The conference is attended by key political figures and key representations across the education industry.

david hughes 100 x100David Hughes, Chief Executive of NIACE, said:

"While the economy is improving, it is still fragile and as the recent Employer Skills Survey from UKCES reported, the level of skills-gaps in workplaces across the country is a danger to lasting growth. There is a crucial role that skills and lifelong learning has to play in ensuring that we build a sustainable recovery for all."

With a skills gap that is widening - there is not one answer to fix this problem. We know that we need to be working with young people in schools so that they obtain independent career advice on the best route into professions. We also know that we need to be marketing science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects so that they appeal to younger generations and more young people embrace these core subjects.

It is also crucial that we need to be working more closely with employers across industry sectors to enable them to grow talent from within their organisations using the right qualifications to enhance business performance. Employees need to be encouraged to develop skills and expertise to fill 'skills gaps' where possible.

There also is the issue of supporting those who are not in employment, education or training (NEET) and helping people into work or inspiring them into training. While the latest report from the ONS tells us that unemployment has slightly fallen, there are still over two million people out of work.

The 2013 NIACE Adult participation in learning survey , while not surprising, told us that higher socio-economic classes are more likely to have participated in learning and that older people are less likely to take part in learning. I do feel that we need to be working harder to encourage lifelong learning amongst all age groups but especially older learners, giving them new skills to enhance or consolidate the experience they have gained.
Progression is key and evidence shows that those who do study often continue to do so, continuing onto other courses and qualifications. We certainly see that with AAT students and learners that have come back to the classroom. Many start a qualification with us and enjoy it so much they continue on their journey, studying until they feel they've reached their true potential which in many cases is gaining chartered status!

Adult Learners' Week provides a platform to celebrate and showcase phenomenal success stories and we hope encourages those contemplating a course or qualification to take that initial step and do it!

As a professional membership body, we are always encouraging investment in CPD. We engage with council's adult education and learning services across the UK with the task of improving skills. Not only is this a key driver to address social mobility but also accountancy, business and financial skills are essential for any company and are highly sought after. Those who have achieved an AAT qualification know they have the skills and knowledge that is valued by employers.

By working with councils up and down the country, we are able to work with a variety of adult learners that are returning to the job market, career changers or from hard to reach communities that are new to the studying and the classroom environment.

North Yorkshire County Council is one such council that is up skilling its regional NEET population and adult learners by delivering AAT qualifications and seeing a vast percentage (between 70 – 80%) then gain the confidence to secure job roles in both public and private sector or in a family business. Funding to help with the cost of AAT's courses may be available depending on individual circumstances.

We need to work hard to get people into work and sustainable employment but much more needs to be done to ensure we as a nation are helping others reach their potential. This is important locally, regionally and for UK plc to be competitive in the future. High quality vocational qualifications have a big role to play to get people of all ages back into learning and to give people confidence to apply for and secure new or more senior roles which is good news for businesses and economic growth.

Andrew Roberts Morris is a regional account manager for the Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT)

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