From education to employment

LSC and LSDA Executives Find Much Food for Thought in LSDA Workplace Learning Report

Senior figures in the Learning and Skills Development Agency (LSDA) and in the Learning and Skills Council (LSC) have welcomed this month’s publication of a report compiled by the Institute for Employment Studies (IES) on the importance of encouraging employer and employee participation in training and education.

Government policy (in other words, the two government Skills Strategies, 2003 and 2005) has been driving forward a number of initiatives for encouraging workplace training and education, particularly focused on their Skills for Life agenda and the desire to ensure that all of Britain has a minimum Level 2 (equivalent to 5 GCSEs) training standard. This has seen the growth of the Sector Skills Councils (SSCs) to improve the responsiveness and relevance of training programmes, and the improvement in advice and guidance on offer to both employers and employees when it comes to training and education.

Ruth Kelly, the Secretary of State for Education and Skills, stated: “Too many adults in Britain still lack basic skills in literacy and numeracy and employers are concerned that they cannot recruit workers with the skills they need to be competitive. We need to tackle this and go even further to support more adults in achieving the higher end technician, craft and professional qualifications our economy needs to compete with the best.”

Case Studies

The report stressed that barriers remain firmly entrenched for both employees and employers. However, the report was also at pains to point to certain examples of good practice in workplace training schemes, using a series of case studies to highlight this. One name present is that of one of the most popular high street stores, Tesco. Tesco’s Learning Centre, based in its warehouse and distribution centre in Hatfield, is one of two venues that house learning centres for employees.

The Hatfield site employs around 500 staff – mostly drivers and warehouse workers ““ who take classes as wide ranging as guitar lessons, conversational Spanish, IT and English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL). The centre is run by a manager with tutors sourced from North Herts College. The courses are partially funded through employee commitments, and often take place in their own time; but Tesco has agreed to give an hour for an hour of the employee’s time for up to eight hours a year per employee, which is at the least an effort at supporting employees in improving their skills.

Another case study cited was that of Cumbria Care, a union-based project providing education and training to care workers. Approximately 80 people have been supported through this scheme in studying subjects such as literacy, numeracy or basic IT skills over the past two years. Online learning is offered to ensure that the means of delivery is as flexible as possible. The scheme is intended to reach the hard-to-reach groups such as low-paid female workers, part-time staff and women with more than one job.

LSDA Research Manager Looks to the Future

Darshan Sachdev, the LSDA’s research manager, stressed the importance of better understanding the issues involved in workplace learning before determining the best solutions. “It is important that we understand what motivates people to engage in learning and how best to get employers on board,” said Darshan. “This research suggests that learning is not a primary concern for most employers, but rather a means to an end.”

Darshan continued by looking ahead to the implementation of the recommendations of the report, saying: “We need to give more attention to the activities that drive up demand for learning, by encouraging employers to demand higher levels of skills and by motivating employees to seek ways to improve their career prospects.”

LSC Welcome Report

The LSC also responded to the findings of the report, with David Way, Director of Skills at the LSC, saying: “Breaking down barriers to learning in the workplace is vital if we are to achieve a truly world class workforce. This research reinforces the message that colleges and other providers need to be more flexible in how they deliver workplace training, and that public funding needs to focus on those who have the least skills and are less likely to be trained by their employers.

“The success of the Employer Training Pilots has demonstrated that these barriers can be overcome,” he continued. “The pilots make it as simple as possible for employers to provide training for their staff, for example by working around shift patterns and offer “bite-sized sessions” rather than a more formal training course. All of this will be incorporated into the National Employer Training Programme (NETP), Train to Gain.”

Jethro Marsh

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