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Welfare Reform on the Web (October 2008): Education - UK - training

Does literacy and numeracy training for adults increase employment and employability? Evidence from the Skills for Life programme in England

P. Meadows and H. Metcalf

Industrial Relations Journal, vol. 39, 2008, p. 354-369

Skills for Life, a long-term government programme to improve adult literacy and numeracy in England, was introduced in 2001. A wide range of literacy and numeracy courses were provided free of charge to those without Level 2 (GCSE) qualifications. This research assessed the effects of participation in these courses one year later, using a matched comparison, longitudinal design, with difference-in-differences analysis. Employability improvements, but no employment effects, were found.

Improving learning, skills and inclusion: the impact of policy on post-compulsory education

F. Coffield and others

London: Routledge, 2008

This book is part of the Improving Learning series which showcases findings from projects within ESRC's Teaching and Learning Research Programme. The six co-authors of this book examine the turbulent, but important, learning skills sector both from above, by interviewing the officials responsible for it, and from below, by talking to hundreds of learners and front-line staff and this data is presented as a series of stories. The main finding is that the sector is undergoing a fundamental shift from area-based planning to a more marketised 'demand-led' system and the evidence suggests that this high-risk strategy may destabilise education providers and exclude disadvantaged learners. The book goes on to outline elements of an alternative system underpinned by three principles: prioritising the relationship between tutor and learner, placing equity above economic efficiency, and ensuring a more moderate pace of change.

Recruiting for fitness: qualifications and the challenges of an employer-led system

C. Lloyd

Journal of Education and Work, vol. 21, 2008, p. 175-195

The UK Labour government has identified skills as key to both economic success and social justice. In the drive to improve workforce skills, policy has focused on making the vocational education and training system more 'demand-led', with employers designated as playing the major role. Sector Skills Councils (SSCs) were formed to act as the main conduit through which employer demand would be articulated. Through a study of recruitment and selection in the fitness industry, this paper explores employers' attitudes to vocational and academic qualifications, and whether their skill needs are being identified by their SSC. Data were gathered through interviews with managers of 17 gyms, focusing on the occupation of fitness instructor. Results show that, although qualifications in the sector are important, the over-supply of qualified workers means that there is little incentive for employers to tackle low wages or improve opportunities for training and development.

Renewing the physical infrastructure in English further education colleges

National Audit Office

London: TSO, 2008 (House of Commons papers, session 2007/08: HC 924)

The further education capital programme is enabling colleges in England to make good progress in renewing and rationalising their estate, replacing poor quality buildings with high quality, more suitable facilities. The programme has taken advantage of colleges' accumulated reserves, access to loan funding and scope to dispose of surplus assets. In addition, the Learning and Skills Council approved grants of 1.7 billion towards the 4.2 billion costs of the renewal programme.

This report evaluates:

  • the Council's co-ordination of college projects in the overall programme, the procurement approach used by the Council and colleges, the support given to colleges and the delivery of projects to cost and time
  • the impact of the programme, focusing on the progress made across the sector, the quality of the buildings and the indebtedness of the sector.
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