Our vision is for a prosperous and fair society in which learning and work provide opportunities for everyone to realise their potential and ambitions.We work with a wide range of partners and stakeholders to support the learning and skills sector in providing more and better opportunities for all adults, and to advance the case for adult learning among policy-makers.
Adult learning can help transform lives, communities, families, and workplaces. Yet latest data shows 900,000 fewer adults taking part in learning than five years ago. So it’s perhaps never been more important to celebrate the best in adult learning and inspire more adults into learning.
Festival of Learning has been doing this for more than 25 years. We are in search of individuals, tutors, employers and projects that have used learning to transform their lives and the lives of others.
Nominations for the 2018 Awards open today, Thursday 2 November, and will close on Friday 5 January 2018. The awards recognise the outstanding achievements of adult learners and aim to inspire others to discover the power and joy of learning for themselves.
Funded by the Department for Education and coordinated by Learning and Work Institute, the awards are presented across four categories:
individuals who have transformed their own lives and the lives of their families, friends, their communities, and the places they work
tutors whose valuable contribution to adult learning and the impact they have had on their learners deserves recognition
innovative learning projects or provision that could be replicated or adapted by other learning providers
employers that have used learning to develop and utilise the skills of their workforce to improve productivity, increase staff retention and enhance their business performance.
Stephen Evans, Chief Executive of Learning and Work Institute, said, “Adult learning makes a real difference to people, the economy and society, and it’s important to promote and recognise that contribution. That’s what the Festival of Learning is all about. We showcase the improvements made and the benefits reaped on all levels, but we need your inspirational stories to achieve this.
“Learning happens at all stages of adult life and at all ages, through classes, courses, and day to day at work. Habib Rezaie won last year’s Outstanding Individual Learner Award. He came to the UK from Afghanistan at age 16 without his family or any English. Ten years on, he has a degree and is working for a charity supporting people like himself. It’s those stories we value and want to celebrate.”
Ruth Spellman, Chief Executive and General Secretary at The WEA said
“Habib’s journey illustrates perfectly the transformational effect of education. He has travelled further in terms of physical distance, emotional and intellectual development than many successful professionals or business leaders. He epitomises the talent pool in the UK today which can add so much value to our economy and society – if only we provide the infrastructure and the investment in all age learning.”
Anne Milton MP, Minister of State for Apprenticeships and Skills, said
“The Department for Education is proud to be a longstanding supporter of this important project and I look forward to seeing this year’s nominations. It is vital that we encourage many more people to take up the chance to learn throughout their lives and to build the skilled workforce our economy needs. I am pleased that we are able to mark and celebrate the achievements of those learners, learning providers, tutors and employers that are making a special commitment to achieve this.”
NOCN sponsor the Learning for Work and Employer awards. MD, Graham Hasting-Evans said
“We know that learning has positive benefits in many ways. It not only changes careers and enhances prospects, but it is good for health and wellbeing. Every year, we are privileged to hear the amazing stories of inspirational people. I am confident that the quality of nominees this year will be just as inspirational as ever.”
Marcella Collins, Managing Director UK, at Hotcourses Group, a Festival of Learning partner said
“For many people, getting back into education has not only instilled them with newly found self-belief, but allowed them to support their communities using these new skill sets. For others, it has enabled them to forge a new career path that they didn’t previously think was possible. Together with the Festival of Learning, we hope to showcase examples of why and how adult learning is so important for our society and country.”
My name is Habib Rezaie. I came to the UK from Afghanistan in 2006 at the age of 16, as an unaccompanied asylum-seeking child. At age 12 I lost both of my parents and went through some harsh and horrifying experiences. Being raised without them was difficult and sad especially in a country like Afghanistan, where I could not seek support when I needed it. There was a night where I cried all night and there was nobody to even offer me a hug. After a terrible event, I had to flee to a safer country.
The things that I have experienced have helped me to become the person I am now. When I arrived in the UK, I had been granted temporary leave to remain here until I was 18. I applied again for asylum but it took 5 years before I was given further temporary leave to remain. During the 5 years I was very worried every day and having bad dreams at night about the Home Office deporting me back to a warzone.
In Afghanistan, I never had the opportunity to go to school. When I arrived in the UK I did not speak English and had to start my education from scratch. I could not write anything at all, even in my own language but I was passionate to learn and dreamt about going to university. I worked hard, long hours and gave up my social time to study. One day one of my close Afghan friends asked me ‘why do you study that hard?’ and I said ‘I’d like to go to university’. He just laughed and said ‘No you CAN’T, we don’t have the brains for it and even you, you cannot even spell the word “can”’.
This upset me but then it became the most powerful motivation speech that I ever heard because when they told me I couldn’t do it, this made me work even harder to prove them wrong and to show them that they were mistaken. I believed in myself and this was really important.
Now 10 years on I have achieved what I was dreaming of. I went to university, completed my degree in Computing For Business and now I am studying a masters course in Data Analytics. For me, university is a great environment with like-minded people from around the world. This has had a positive effect on my life. Education moves you forward with your life and the beautiful thing about learning is that no one can take it away from you.
The word “can’t” will stop you, will slow you down, turn you away from your dream, and cause you to move backwards if you let it. But if you have the proper mind-set it can make you stronger when you overcome it.
I have learned that some things don’t come easy and it will take time to achieve your dreams, but if you think positive then you can do it. Don’t give up! Don’t give up! Because you can!
I would like to discuss the importance of information, advice and guidance around education and careers for young carers.
Notice I haven’t said “tailored” in the above sentence? With good reason.
It seems to me that there is a long way to go before we can say that tailored advice and guidance is being provided for young carers. In my experience, many young carers have received little or no careers advice at school, and any they did receive tended to focus on sixth form or college routes. They are not made aware of the Raising the Participation Age Regulations (RPA) and just assume that they must stay in education until they are 18. Their parents are even less informed.
For many young carers, school is difficult. The research shows that they are more likely to miss time at school and that they often do not achieve as well as their peers. Naturally then, some must spend the best part of years 10 and 11 worrying that they’ll never do well enough to get into college or sixth form.
Young carers are three times more likely to be NEET than their peers. Does this correlate directly with a lack of basic, tailored careers advice at school? I think it quite possibly does. If careers advice for young carers included informing them that apprenticeships are an option under the RPA or that working/volunteering part-time alongside part-time study is also allowed, then far fewer would be NEET in my opinion.
So, before we even talk to young carers about the rules around Carer’s Allowance or their right to request flexible working, or introduce them to the tools we developed through this project to help them make the right choices for them, it’s vitally important to give them the basics first.
I quite like some of the tools we have collectively produced for this project and will use them, but first I will make sure the young person is fully aware of what it is they can legally do post-16 so that the tools can be used meaningfully and successfully.
We are pleased to announce the forthcoming launch of our new toolkit to support young adult carers in making informed decisions about education and work.
The launch is being supported by a series of free workshops throughout November and early December, at which participants will receive a free hard copy of the toolkit.
Research shows that young adult carers face significant challenges in education, training and employment. They are twice as likely to be not in education, employment or training (NEET), on average achieve 9 lower GCSE grades and often have lower aspirations than their peers. As a result, these young people are at serious risk of experiencing a lifetime of limited career progression and a cycle of intergenerational disadvantage.
The Learning, Work and Wellbeing Toolkit is designed to enable staff to work with young adult carers to help them make informed choices about learning and work, and clarify and achieve their career ambitions. It includes practical tips and resources for use with young adult carers as well as materials focussed on the professional development of staff and service improvement.
You can see a sneak preview of the toolkit by clicking on the images below.
To introduce the toolkit and provide training in using the resources within it, we are running a series of free workshops throughout November and early December. The workshops will offer support to staff from carers services, colleges and other organisations, and provide each participant with a free hard copy ahead of its launch early in the New Year. Book your workshop place here.
Nicola Aylward, Head of Learning for Young People, said:
“Our work with young adult carers suggests that these young people are even less likely to have access to good quality, tailored careers advice than their peers. This, combined with the added barriers that their caring responsibilities can create to learning and work, means they are at real risk of being trapped in low-paid, insecure work with little chance of progression.
“A crucial role for carers services and other organisations who work with young adult carers is to support them to overcome the practical challenges they face in education and work, raise their aspirations and fulfil their potential. Receiving support from someone who they can trust and who understands their situation, can make all the difference in enabling young adult carers to overcome barriers, develop high aspirations, achieve their goals and improve their long-term life chances.
“We’ve worked closely with six carers services and their young adult carers to develop the Learning, Work and Wellbeing Toolkit. We believe that support staff will find both the pack and accompanying training extremely useful in equipping them with the knowledge, information and resources they need to help young adult carers choose their own path in life, as well as explore opportunities for their own personal and service development.”
We welcome the Government’s response to the Taylor Review on modern employment practices. We were pleased that the Business Under-Secretary Andrew Griffiths reiterated that the Government wants the creation of quality jobs, not just a large quantity of jobs. The challenge now is how to translate this into action.
Offering high quality of apprenticeships is another key focus for Learning & Work Institute, so again it was encouraging that apprentice pay was raised in the Commons debate by Robert Halfon, the chair of the Education Select Committee. We welcome the Minister’s response that apprentices are on the Government’s radar and that the Government is going to ‘beef up’ the enforcement teams in ensuring that apprentices are paid fairly. Our research shows around one in four employers do not know the rules around apprentice pay and we need to tackle this.
We were pleased to contribute to the Review as we know that despite the UK’s relatively high overall employment rates by international standard not enough of those jobs reach a good enough quality standard.
At the moment around 5 million people in work are paid below the Living Wage including many in the ‘gig economy’ that the Taylor Review highlighted. This means that many people experience in-work poverty, which in turn leads to low productivity, limited career opportunities and a lack of business prosperity for the UK. Our research shows that providing people on low incomes with advice and support can help them build their careers and boost their earnings.
We welcome the Government’s announcement that it will publicise the rights of workers to make sure everyone knows what they entitled to and that HMRC will more rigorously enforce the rights of workers in precarious employment.
It’s good that the Government intends to better enforce holiday and sick pay entitlements, and allow flexible workers to demand more stable contracts. But we need more action to build rights, tackle perverse incentives in the tax system, particularly National Insurance, and do more to set ‘good work’ as a national goal.
Throughout Europe apprenticeships provide a crucial entry point to the world of work for young people. However, too many young people are missing out because they need support to bridge the gap from compulsory education or unemployment, to an apprenticeship.
Learning and Work Institute is working in partnership with the J.P. Morgan Chase Foundation to identify ways in which organisations can design and deliver inclusive and high-quality pre-apprenticeship programmes that provide a pathway to apprenticeships for young people.
A call for evidence is open for organisations across the UK and Europe, such as FE colleges, VET schools, youth organisations, employment support services and the voluntary sector to submit information about their pre-apprenticeship provision.
Nicola Aylward, Head of Learning for Young People, said, “This is a great opportunity for providers to showcase their pre-apprenticeship provision at a European level. We’re particularly interested in hearing about pre-apprenticeship programmes that effectively engage young people who are disadvantaged, or who experience barriers to apprenticeships.
By responding to this call for evidence providers will be contributing to the development of new practical resources that will help organisations across Europe deliver high quality pre-apprenticeship programmes for all young people.”
Tackling burning injustices was Theresa May’s call to arms when she became Prime Minister. Learning and Work Institute analysis shows that chances in life are still unfairly distributed. There are too many opportunity ‘not spots’ across England, and an urgent need to build a better learning and skills system for adults.
Low social mobility is a burning injustice
Social mobility (or social justice, life chances, fairness) ultimately comes down to the extent to which your chances in life are dependent on your background. Can you get anywhere your efforts and talents will take you, regardless of background?
On this measure the UK doesn’t do well. There is a stronger link between adults’ income and those of their parents than in many other countries and this link appears to have strengthened over time. A significant proportion of this ‘stickiness’ is due to education. People’s educational attainment is closely linked to their parents’ education, and this then affects their opportunities in the labour market. If you are born to parents who gained fewer qualifications at school, you are likely to gain fewer qualifications and earn less as an adult.
This has two profound implications. Firstly for fairness, it is surely a ‘burning injustice’ that your life chances are strongly dependent on your background.
Secondly for economic prosperity. A US study shows people from poorer areas who get better maths grades are no more likely to file patents than people from better off areas who get worse maths grades. It memorably calls these Lost Einsteins. Here in the UK, how many Einsteins, Beethovens, Dysons, Berners-Lees and more have we lost, purely because of background? If we want to grow as a country, and cut our productivity gap with other countries, we need to utilise the talents of everyone.
Opportunity ‘not spots’
So how can we improve social mobility?
The UK’s poor skills base is one of the factors holding back productivity and social mobility. Nine million adults lack functional literacy and numeracy skills and our intermediate skills base lags behind many comparator countries. On most international league tables, we are closer to being relegation candidates than challenging for the title.
The Government’s general focus is on improving educational attainment, reforms of technical education, and expansion of apprenticeships. These could boost social mobility and productivity, and are supported by the highest employment rate (75%) on record. The flipside is that we are on track for the worst decade for growth in living standards since the Napoleonic Wars. Cuts in funding for Further Education since 2010 mean there are around one million fewer adults participating in government-funded learning than five years ago, with sharp falls in literacy, numeracy and community learning.
Part of the Government’s answer to targeting support and boosting social mobility has been to improve education for young people. This includes the designation of twelve Opportunity Areas across England, where analysis shows a shortfall in opportunities and outcomes. This has been backed by some (limited) funding and action plans.
However, there is little mention in these plans of adults. This matters for two reasons. The first is that every generation deserves a fair chance in life – we shouldn’t simply write off every generation that has left compulsory education. The second is that helping parents helps young people. So action to help adults has a double dividend.
Learning and Work Institute analysis shows Opportunity Areas are too often opportunity ‘not spots’ for adults. Adults in most opportunity areas have poorer outcomes for employment, pay, qualifications, and participation in higher education than the England average. Figure 1 summarises this, with red showing worse outcomes in that area than the national average, and green better.
Figure 1. Opportunity Area data for adults
Many Opportunity Areas have higher than average participation in apprenticeships. This shows that efforts to improve the quality of apprenticeships and fairness of access to them will have a disproportionate impact in these parts of England.
Learning and Work Institute also analysed changes over time. Figure 2 shows employment growth (x axis) mapped against apprenticeship growth (y axis) over the last five years. Opportunity Areas are in red, other Local Authorities in England are in blue. Overall, Opportunity Areas have neither disproportionately benefited from employment and apprenticeship growth, nor missed out. Only six of twelve Opportunity Areas had above average employment growth. This means relatively limited progress in closing opportunity gaps.
Figure 2. Local Authority growth in employment and apprenticeships
What can we do about it?
There isn’t an easy answer to this complex challenge. However, improving learning and work opportunities for adults has to be central to improving the life chances of adults and young people.
Here we highlight five priorities:
Ambition & fair investment
There are one million fewer adults in publicly funded learning than in 2010, a result of sharp reductions in public investment. Young people attending Further Education and adults wanting to learn recieve lower investment per person than schools and universities. We need to invest more in learning for adults and ensure a level playing field for funding – whatever route people take – and a national strategy to increase adults’ participation in learning.
Too often we ask people to fit into government systems, rather than vice versa. We need far more flexibility. Many people and employers want modules of learning, but Advanced Learner Loans ,which offer support with the costs, don’t cover these, only full qualifications. Tuition fee and maintenance loan support is available for young people undertaking higher education, but much reduced for adults wanting to return to study and for part-time learners. Higher education shouldn’t be a one shot chance at a full time degree at age 18. The forthcoming Government review of university funding and student finance needs to address this.
Clear technical and vocational routes
Expansion of apprenticeships and technical education reforms are welcome. However, they do not build into a clear set of pathways. We also need high quality careers advice for adults, and a relentless focus on quality. It is unacceptable that 41% of apprenticeship providers are judged by Ofsted as needing improvement or inadequate. There would be an outcry if this was the case at 41% of schools.
Widening employment opportunity
The expansion of employment has disproportionately benefited lower income households in recent years. However, our analysis shows some groups and parts of the country still missing out. We have previously argued Local Authorities can have a greater leadership role to align and integrate funding, policy and delivery.
Careers and progression advice
Of every four people low paid ten years ago, three are still low paid today. We have called for a reversal of cuts to Universal Credit (compared to tax credits). Beyond this, we want more support for people on low pay so they can progress and boost their careers. Our evaluation of West London’s Skills Escalator showed access to a personal advisor and bespoke support helped people to increase their earnings. That’s why we’ve previously called for a Progression Service focused on helping people on low incomes to get on as part of a revitalised careers service.
Improving social mobility and increasing prosperity can go hand in hand. To do so requires a bigger focus on learning and work opportunities for adults, as well as improving education for young people. Taken together, these can be the building blocks of an ambitious plan to tackle burning injustice.
Apprenticeships and Skills Minister Anne Milton has announced the launch of a new project to increase underrepresented groups taking apprenticeships. Learning and Work Institute is supporting the 5 cities with the design, delivery and evaluation of the pilots, on behalf of the Department for Education.
Stephen Evans, Chief Executive, said:
“Apprenticeships are a great way to combine learning and earning, and so unequal access to them is a burning injustice. This is something we have consistently highlighted and so we are pleased to be working with the Government and the five chosen cities for the project to identify ‘what works’ in improving the take-up of apprenticeships among under-represented groups, including those from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) backgrounds.
Tackling these inequalities will require a partnership, so the commitments made by the Minister, by the mayors of five of our major cities, and by key employers are welcome. They represent a positive start, but to turn these aspirations into reality we need to go further and be even more ambitious, leaving no stone unturned in making sure everyone who could benefit from an apprenticeship has the opportunity to do so.”
Working Well provides locally-designed employment support to ESA claimants who had received support through the Work Programme for two years but were not in work at the time of entry to Working Well. This is described in the Greater Manchester Combined Authority’s own evaluation.
Greater Manchester are using the ‘Working Well’ name as a brand-name for their wider set of locally designed employment programmes. Our findings relate only to the pilot we analysed, and not to other programmes under the Working Well banner.
DWP asked Learning and Work Institute to identify impacts on:
Time in work
Time off benefit
This was in comparison to other similar ESA claimants – who we identified statistically from DWP-supplied data. The matched comparison group had Jobcentre Plus support budgeted at 88 minutes of Work Coach time a year.
What we found:
Early figures showed 4.7% of both Working Well and a matched comparison group had started work.
9.8% of the comparison group had been off benefit for 13 weeks or more, compared to 8.1% of Working Well participants.
23.1% of the comparison group had any time off benefit compared to 21.6% of Working Well participants.
We wanted to know if the weakness of the Greater Manchester labour market, compared to the rest of Great Britain, made a difference to the outcomes of Working Well – it did, and this accounted for those headline differences that were negative, such as those noted above.
There was a significant difference in favour of Working Well for jobs lasting for 26 weeks or more.
The positive employment effect of Working Well came via helping participants who had entered work to stay in work for longer than the comparison group rather than by increasing the rate at which participants moved into work when compared to non-participants. We found that participation in Working Well increased weeks in work for those who entered it by 4.6 weeks.
There were no significant differences in other job measures or off-benefit measures.
The DWP-supplied data on benefits and jobs meant that we could closely match the characteristics, and work and benefit histories of Working Well participants.
Using DWP Administrative Data is a powerful approach to evaluation
For this report, we had access to DWP administrative data linked to HMRC tax records. This provided information on the subsequent employment outcomes of participants in Working Well and the matched comparison group of non-participants.
We used a Propensity Score Matching (PSM) approach to matching participants and non-participants to estimate the net impact of Working Well. Matching approaches, including PSM, can only match programme participants against non-participants on the basis of observed factors, such as age, gender, length of time on out of work benefits etc. We included in the matching previous work and benefit receipt histories. This ensures that participants and those they are compared with have similar prior labour market experiences. This reduces the chances of there being relevant unobservable differences between them. This is because if there were such differences between the two groups, which affected labour market outcomes, then we would expect to see differences in their work and benefit histories.
But, while it is not possible to rule out that a matched comparison group may have unobservable differences from participants that make them more or less likely to move off out-of-work benefits or into work than participants, we think we have reduced this problem to the minimum attainable.
It was the access to DWP administrative data linked to HMRC data that allowed us to match on work and benefit receipt histories. This shows the importance of access to DWP administrative data for estimating the impact of labour market interventions.
“Don’t panic” or “we’re all doomed”? What do the latest apprenticeship figure tell us?
New data shows the number of Apprenticeships fell 26% compared to the same time last year. This followed a 59% fall in the previous quarter, the first period covered by the Apprenticeship Levy, which followed a spike during the last quarter of the pre-Levy system.
So, now we have six months of data for the new system, what does this all mean for the Government’s target of three million Apprenticeships by 2020, and the apprenticeship programme more generally? In Dad’s Army style, here’s my take on both.
We’re all doomed
One reading could be that employers have looked at the apprenticeship system and don’t like what they see. Resolution Foundation analysis suggests around two thirds of Levy payers have registered on the governments digital portal, and new registrations have levelled off. Perhaps the remainder will simply treat the Levy as a tax and write it off?
At the same time, the combination of new funding rules and disruptions to the provider market resulting from troubled procurements may have put off employers, including those not paying the Levy. For example, smaller employers now need to contribute 10% of the cost of an apprenticeship – for some the first time they have had to pay (in addition to an apprentice’s wages). Will they (re)engage or is it once bitten, twice shy?
All of this means we’re now quite far off track from a straight line path to the Government’s target of three million apprenticeship starts by 2020. To catch this up there would need to be an acceleration in apprenticeship numbers to levels not seen in modern times. Is this plausible?
Finally, there’s what those employers engaging with the system are doing with their Levy funding. The data shows a sharp rise (from a low base) of Higher Apprenticeships, and declines in Level 2 and 3 Apprenticeships, as well as falls in the numbers of young people taking Apprenticeships. This was both predictable and predicted, including by Learning and Work Institute. This could lead to the same amount of Levy funding buying fewer Apprenticeships (as the rates for higher Apprenticeships are generally higher), risking the three million target further, as well as limiting opportunities for progression and social mobility.
On the other hand, it was both predictable and predicted that it would take employers time to engage with and understand the new system.
The smaller fall this quarter compared to last may reflect the beginnings of increased engagement. This could take us back to pre-reform apprenticeship levels, but perhaps of higher quality because they are employer led? Perhaps there could even be a spike as we get towards mid 2019 and employers’ Levy contributions are about to expire (after two years unused they go to the Treasury).
Similarly, if apprenticeship training is of good quality, surely smaller firms will pay 10% of the cost once they get used to this requirement – it will pay back many times over (though they may need convincing of this).
That could get the Government back on track for its three million target (and just in time for Brexit, allowing the government to argue employers have stepped up to the plate in meeting future skills needs).
At the same time, it is well known that poor leadership and management is a key part of the UKs productivity shortfall compared to other countries. So growth in Higher Apprenticeships would be a good thing if it represented an increased volume and higher quality training in those skills (it’s too early to tell that yet).
Ultimately the government needs to make sure there’s sufficient funding and incentives to also increase training at lower qualification levels and end the historic inequality that most training goes to those that already had the most – there needn’t be a trade off if the funding is provided, we need to improve skills at all levels.
Time to abandon the three million target?
Ultimately, we should not be blasé about the latest figures, nor should we throw the baby out with the bath water.
I have an old fashioned view that Governments should generally stick to their manifesto pledges (though the Conservative manifesto referred to three million Apprenticeships for young people…). So I’m loathe to suggest abandoning it.
However, I think it should have equal prominence alongside measures of quality and reach, such as the proportion of young people taking an apprenticeship and the pay and job outcomes for those that complete one. The three million target gets all the airtime because it’s easy to measure, whereas quality and access are more challenging. Picking a small number of quality measures (such as the proportion of apprentices still in work a year after their apprenticeship and their earnings) and publishing these alongside starts figures might help with that. And in the future let’s have quality and reach figures, rather than starts targets.
Linked to this, the government needs to do far more on quality and access, rather than just stating that they are important. We’ve published proposals including an annual quality and access audit, an Apprentice Premium, and a two tick process so the Institute for Apprenticeships only signs off new standards when the employers in that sector have agreed them and they’ve been benchmarked against the best in the world. There’s lots of other ideas out there too, but we need political and policy maker engagement with them.
Apprenticeships are a great way to combine earning and learning. Their expansion is to be hugely welcomed as, in my view, is the introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy. The government needs to have the courage to admit that further reforms are needed to make the system work for people and employers – this would be a sign of strength not weakness.
Otherwise we risk missing both the target and the point.
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