Qualification provision in the wake of a rise in unemployment and fear of redundancy must continue to adapt to the needs of the market.
As the aftermath of the spending review unfolds and cutbacks begin to affect us all, it is now more important than ever that people have the right skills and confidence needed to improve their career prospects.
According to Labour market statistics, unemployment between September and November stood at a staggering 2.5 million – up by 49,000 on the quarter and 73,000 on the same quarter last year. R3 (The Association of Business Recovery Professionals, a trade body for insolvency and turnaround professionals) also reported that over 4 million Britons are now living in fear of redundancy.
Back in December, the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) announced its plans to offer an integrated package of support for those out of work. The Work Programme aims to provide a personalised 'welfare-to-work' scheme which will be delivered through contracted out provision when it takes full effect this summer.
Questions have been raised about the long-term sustainability of the programme and the high expectations it places on contractors who will deliver the scheme. However, on the whole, we support the principles behind it which aim to guide those currently unemployed or facing redundancy back into employment.
After years of climbing the career ladder, the prospect of facing redundancy can be very traumatic. The idea of suddenly being launched back into the jobs market can be unsettling for many people, particularly when the competition for jobs is high.
It may have also been some time since they went for a job interview, which could lead to a lack confidence or limited interview skills. To tackle this, we're encouraging people to be stay ahead of the game and look at the training options available to them to ensure that their career continues to develop.
Before the wheels had been put in motion around the government programme, NCFE took a proactive step to introduce a new range of qualifications - our 'Get Set for Work' package. The range is designed to help colleges and training providers close the skills gap and enable ways for young people or adults who are unemployed to 'get into' work and boost their qualifications.
The 'Get Set for Work' package is very flexible and works equally as well with candidates currently employed but looking for a change. It can help learners retrain in a new sector and we believe it has a huge possibility for growth in the future.
So far, we've received very positive responses from our customers. Gateshead College for instance, who we work with in the North East recently enrolled over 2,000 learners on our NCFE Level 1 Award in Learning to Learn, which we're delighted with.
We feel that qualification provision across the UK, which aims to address the current unemployment levels, must be tailored to suit the needs of the individual. This is vitally important at a time when job shortages and cut-backs are affecting many families.
We've looked across all of our sectors to provide a wide variety of relevant qualifications that will fit different circumstances and give learners a choice for their future.
The notion of choice is still something which is seriously undervalued when you think about unemployed young people. We must respond to their needs and provide them with a wide range of options for the future. Hopefully, this will provide them with long-term job satisfaction so they can go on to enjoy their careers, as opposed to settling for a job which 'just gets them by'.
We hope our qualifications will provide learners with the essential numeracy, literacy, ICT, vocational and personal skills required by many employers to help them stand out throughout the application process and take them on to further success.
We look forward to the roll out of the government's Work Programme this summer and playing our part, working with training providers and partners to deliver first-rate training for learners.David Grailey is the chief executive of NCFE, the qualification awarding body
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