From education to employment

Learning Brokers Promote Lifelong Learning

The latest report from Learning and Skills Development Agency (LSDA) Institute for Access Studies at Staffordshire University marks the end of a three-year project developed by the Learning and Skills Development Agency (LSDA). This research project was designed to discover more about “learning brokers”, and has shown that learning need not stop at school here in the UK.

The LSDA has identified “learning brokers” as individuals or groups of people who act as the go-betweens that maintain links between individuals and various institutions e.g. colleges, adult education centers, voluntary associations and workers union, which provide advice and support for people who have become disengaged from learning.

This is seen as a positive effort that corresponds to the government’s goal of widening participation in education and training. One of the key findings stated in the report was that brokerage is an effective way of engaging adults in education, particularly the “hard to reach” i.e. those who have had little contact with education since leaving school. It also helps boost the confidence and self-esteem of employees at work.

Brokers not only include careers advisors and guidance professionals or union learning representatives, but also librarians, health visitors and nutritionists ““ even football coaches and hairdressers!

The 11 case studies of learning brokerage in practice include organisations such as: The Arts Learning Partnership, an arts organisation in London that seeks to engage “at risk” young people in learning through rap, dance, music and theatre production; a Big Issue Foundation project in Birmingham that provides guidance and support on job seeking, education and training for homeless people as well as SPELL or Supporting People into Employment and Lifelong Learning in Sheffield that employs 40 staff who offer advice and guidance on learning and employment to local people.

They operate mainly through networks, community groups, employers and organizations, helping to boost the confidence and self-esteem of employees atwork and engages people who have never been involved in learning at work. The research shows that by working at grass roots level, the learning brokers can play a crucial role in inspiring people and transforming their lives.

Ivan Lewis, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Skills and Vocational Learning, says that by finding out who the brokers are, where they work and how effective they are at connecting with “non-traditional” adult learners is one of the early steps taken to motivate and support many more learners and to re-engage people into learning. “For too many people, learning is something that stops when they leave school,” he said. “But learning new skills at work or for pleasure should become a rewarding part of everyday,” commented Lewis.

Clearly, the next vital step would be to build on these networks in order to create a better learning environment for those whose skills are fundamental to the UK in a global economy. LSDA calls for a clearer professional identity for learning brokers, with structured training, better opportunities for career development and longer-term funding for their activities.

Pai Pin

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