From education to employment

Chief Executive of the Learning and Skills Council (LSC) Lancashire on the EMAs and

Building Awareness

While there are 13,000 recipients of the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA), FE News reporter Sudakshina Mukherjee wanted to know what strategies there are to encourage more young people to claim.

Mr. Palmer stated: “There is a national marketing strategy, which has a campaign running currently, and which will be repeated in May, June and August. This includes TV and Radio advertising, placement of adverts on phone kiosks and bus shelters, as well as PR coverage on topics like easing the cost of staying in learning.”

He continued: “Locally in Lancashire, we are working with a wide range of partners to inform those who advise young people of EMA and other support options. This ranges from FE Colleges, Connexion and Work Based Learning providers to groups such as Youth Offending Teams, YMCA, Barnardos, The Princes Trust, Gingerbread etc.

“Our local campaign with schools includes all those services working with young people at risk of not continuing in education,” he concluded, “such as Pupil Referral Units, Education Medical Services, Looked After Children Services, Traveller Family Services, and also targets those schools which have a low progression rate at 16 to learning destinations. This includes distribution of leaflets and stationery items emblazoned with the EMA website and telephone number.”

Best Use of Funds

Another interesting, yet crucial factor for consideration is knowing whether measures are being taken to ensure that the money received through the EMA is being spent on educational and vocational necessities. Mr. Palmer agrees and says: “EMA is provided to recruit and retain a young person in learning. There is some expectation that the young person will use some of this money to support travel expenses, however they can spend this as they see fit – and if they do not travel to college, they wont get the following weeks payment as it is paid on attendance.”

Mr. Palmer continued, saying: “A recent competition which we ran in Lancashire inviting young people to photograph what they spent their EMA on resulted in a wide response. Some of the items included kit for vocational course (such as hair and beauty), specific clothing (such as shoes for health care work), stationery, books, modes of transport. We are encouraged that EMA has resulted in up to 10% improvement in retention rates on certain courses, and believe young people are using EMA to help them stay in learning.”

Apprenticeships for Skills Shortages

On the less popular or less-available sectors for apprenticeship opportunities, Mr. Palmer explains: “From our records during the end of January 2006, there were 9,175 apprenticeship opportunities in Lancashire. We are currently working with Apprenticeship Solutions Lancashire to target employers in specific geographical locations around Lancashire. We have looked at growth in particular occupational areas and at the moment we have decided to focus on the retail sector.

“We recently held an event for employers in Lancaster to promote retail Apprenticeships,” he went on to say. “We will soon be holding one in Preston. At the moment we are still looking into which other sectors would benefit from an increase in Apprenticeships. Because Apprenticeships are real jobs, led by real employers, they therefore reflect the economic situation of the area by their very nature. Where skills are required, apprenticeships are available.”

When the same was asked about Entry to Employment (E2E) programmes, Palmer responded: “So far, over 1,100 young people in Lancashire have benefited from e2e training for work in a diverse range of jobs from office work to construction, hairdressing, catering and computing. The current success rate for the e2e programme is at 48% progressing to a positive destination, such as work based learning, further education or a job, compared to the national figure of 45%.”

All of us here at FE News would like to thank Mr. Palmer for his time, and wish him well for the future.

Sudakshina Mukherjee

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