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Research reveals job-boosting prospects of community learning

The WEA Impact Report 2021
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The new Impact Report 2021 released today (19 Oct) from The WEA (@WEAadulted), the UK’s the UK’s largest voluntary sector provider of adult education, reveals the extent community learning helps adults improve their employability and life chances.  It highlights the importance of learning to boost career prospects but warns that vulnerable adults who don’t have this access to learning will miss out.    

The WEA is different to from FE colleges as it helps in particular students furthest away from the traditional learning curriculum – 39% come from a disadvantaged postcode, 38% started on income benefits and 30% had no or low qualifications. 

The survey is a snapshot of 1,930 students and demonstrates impressive community learning outcomes of building confidence, delivering skills and attributes valued by all employers, supporting those who would otherwise be economically inactive and much more.   

Highlights include: 

Supporting those getting back to work   

  • 67% of students who were unemployed said that the course helped them improve skills or knowledge that might be used in a job  
  • 62% of unemployed students looking for work felt they know how to find things out 
  • 60% said that their WEA course had increased their motivation to find work in the future 
  • 44% felt more confident in finding a job/career in the future  
  • 65% found work within six months of their study or felt confident about doing so

Developing skills useful at work  

  • 68% reported that their course helped them to develop perseverance and motivation
  • 67% reported their course helped them get on with other people and make a good contribution within a team 
  • 60% reported that they WEA course helped them do things more independently 
  • 60% were able to sort out problems better than before their course 
  • 58% were able to organise and manage their own work better 

 Other benefits of learning   

  • 96% reported that their WEA course(s) helped to keep their mind active 
  • 81% reported improvements in their overall wellbeing 
  • 63% took up new hobbies or interests 
  • 59% reported an increase in their self-confidence  
  • 58% of students with stress issues reduced stress as a result of their WEA course  
  • 65% of WEA students made fewer (1-5) visits to the GP compared to national average (6) saving the public purse over half a million pounds.

Simon Parkinson, Chief Executive & General Secretary of The WEA said:  

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“This research shows the vital role community education plays in supporting adults on their journey to enter or progress in work. Alongside these benefits, it reduces stress and loneliness and makes people happier and healthier. In a nutshell, it transforms lives.   

“Policy makers have tended to overlook community learning but the Impact Report shows that even 6 months after taking a course, adult learners are starting to achieve impressive outcomes.  

“However, it is critical that we ensure those adults who need the most support are not forgotten as they need opportunities to upskill and retrain through essential skills employability courses. So, we have launched a manifesto to show how we can work with the UK Government, MCA’s and local employer representative bodies to truly create a levelling up agenda.”  

There is a critical need to help the 3.7 million people (12%) in the UK in low paid and insecure work, 16% who have poor literacy skills, the 1 in 3 who have no qualifications and are living in poverty and more. 

The Government appears to be focused on level 3 and above, so this could exclude thousands who need education to progress.

So, the WEA manifesto recommends five strategies to minimise pre-existing inequalities and disparities and build on the Governments’ levelling up agenda:  

  1. Introduce a distinct fund for adults who need essential employability skills 
  2. Maintain the current level of funding for adult education prioritising essential skills 
  3. Remove the economicskills trap that creates barriers for disadvantaged adults accessing courses  
  4. Launch a national awareness campaign about accessing adult education courses  
  5. Legislate Specialist Designated Institutions to have equal rights to grant funding 

Methodology: The Impact report is based on an online survey of 1,930 students undertaken in May 2021 

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