From education to employment

South West seeks extra funding from Europe to meet demand

The number of migrant workers seeking to improve their English language skills has “more than doubled” over the last two years.

And expert predictions estimate that the number will rise by the end of 2007, to an estimated 66,000 migrants. Last year, there were approximately 33,000 workers seeking courses in ESOL [English for Speakers of Other Languages].

A report released yesterday from the Learning and Skills Council states: “It is important that we meet all the needs for ESOL training but equally it is important that we meet the targets set by external funders”.

Complications arise when meeting the necessary requirements for ESOL, as courses are financed from the same fund that the LSC provides to reach literacy and numeracy targets. Further, participants in ESOL courses make up 15% of the total number of people in training; only an estimated 5% of these will complete a Level 1 qualification, wanting just the basics to continue in their working lives.

“This means that pressure could be put upon the LSC’s target for formal qualifications, since current levels of qualifications achieved through Skills for Life are 50 per cent literacy training, 45 per cent numeracy and five per cent ESOL”.

The South West Regional Skills Partnership (SWRSP) is seeking a means to secure extra funding from the European Social Fund (ESF) to meet the demand and ensure learners gain all the support they need.

“This extra money from the ESF would not have any qualifications-based targets, therefore it can be freed up for those who want to get the basic ESOL skills training”, the LSC continued.

And Jim Neilson, SWRSP, added: “A key purpose of the Partnership is to identify emerging issues so that the partners can respond collectively. The skills issues posed by the growing number of migrant workers is a perfect example of this”.

“ESOL is very important, but it is equally important that we have adequate funding for the literacy and numeracy training needed by other sections of our society”.

“The LSC, one of our key funding partners, is trying to balance the conflicting interests in this situation but this is a wider partnership issue and it will require a partnership solution”.

And in related news, the University and College Union (UCU) has expressed its concern over yesterday’s LSC announcement on charging fees for ESOL courses.

Paul Mackney, UCU Joint Secretary noted: “It is impossible to see how making English language learning (through ESOL courses) more expensive assists the government’s stated objective of promoting greater integration”.

“New workers arriving in Britain to fill our skill gaps should be helped with their language needs as swiftly as possible for everybodys benefit. Asylum seekers who are given refugee status and allowed to remain should also be helped into work and society”.

“Employers and the agencies which bring in migrant workers should pay for the English courses of their staff, just as employers should contribute to other vital skills training”.

Vijay Pattni.

Related FE News articles:

“We Need More Systematic Planning” ““ 09/10/06

ESOL Provision “Patchy” ““ 03/10/06

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