From education to employment

Survey highlights drop in adults participating in learning

Its results also show a fall in those looking to learn in the future.

The Adult Learners’ Week survey, Counting the cost, has found the proportion of adults participating in learning has dropped by three per cent in the last year. The annual survey, to be published today by NIACE, shows the number of adults currently learning, or having done so in the last three years, has decreased from 41 per cent in 2007 to 38 per cent in 2008.
The number of adults planning to take up learning in the future has also suffered a sharp drop. In 2006, 45 per cent expressed a desire to learn in the future, compared with 43 per cent in 2007 and just 36 per cent in 2008. The sharpest fall in the number of those aspiring towards future study is seen among current learners, with a fall from 88 per cent to 72 per cent.
The director of NIACE, Alan Tuckett, said: “This survey poses sharp challenges.  Its major finding, that participation has fallen among key target groups for the government’s learning and skills strategy, calls into question the balance of current policy instruments. One goal of policy is to engage those who say they have done no learning since school, the findings that over two-thirds of them agree that learning and training can have a positive impact upon their working and family lives yet just 15 per cent plan to get involved shows the size of the task if the Government’s goals are to be realised.”
The results of the survey also show the fall in participation has affected some groups disproportionately. C2s’ learning has fallen by seven per cent in a single year, and full time workers’ participation has fallen to 45 per cent from 51 per cent in 2006. Part-time workers’ participation also dropped dramatically to 48 per cent from a figure of 55 per cent in 2006. Despite Government efforts, no increase was highlighted over the last ten years for those in socio-economic groups DE, the semi and unskilled workers, retired and unemployed people.
Mr Tuckett continued: “Despite the real gains of the Skills for Life and Train to Gain Strategies, the very groups identified as key to the achievement of the Skills Strategy and in the Leitch Review are bearing the heaviest burden of the re-balancing of funding. The findings suggest that the price of investment in key groups of adults in workplace learning is being paid for by reduced participation by other adults from exactly the same groups. This is either because other workplace learning opportunities are being offered to those already with higher skills, or because those adults can no longer access public provision they previously chose for themselves.”
He added: “Since the object of policy continues to be to secure increased investment by individuals, and employers; as well as the state, the survey suggests the time has come for Government to count the cost, as well as the benefits, of its current policies for adult learning.”

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