NIACE leads Third Sector research into its next phase

15 April 2013

A research project to quantify the nature and extent of Third Sector involvement and participation in the delivery of learning and skills is moving to the next phase with the publication of its findings.

Funded by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) and delivered by a partnership between Skills Third Sector, NIACE, the Third Sector National Learning Alliance (TSNLA), Fairtrain, HOLEX and the Learning and Skills Improvement Service (LSIS), the research set out to examine how the Third Sector can play a full role in learning and skills and in meeting wider government objectives.

The research – which included a literature review, quantitative provider survey, focus groups, a statistical analysis of learner and provider records held by the Skills Funding Agency and case studies to complement the quantitative survey – has been the largest study into the Third Sector and has provided a significant and rich source of evidence. It has confirmed the many strengths of the Third Sector including its ability to take a holistic approach to delivery, providing an extensive role in outreach and learner support services, which are often the first step to engaging with ‘hard to reach’ learners and the capability to operate at a community or sub-regional level. All of which make it well placed to contribute to the government’s priorities for learning and skills.

At a stakeholder seminar last October, senior representatives from Third Sector providers, representative organisations, government departments and their agencies explored and validated the early findings from the research. They agreed a clear set of messages to inform the development of a strategic framework and committed to further action to drive forward the next phase of the project, which NIACE is now responsible for.

NIACE is leading on helping the sector to finalise their support priorities and ensure the successful development and delivery of an implementation plan. A new Third Sector Implementation Board will steer the next phase of the work and will be chaired by an independent Third Sector representative. It will also include representatives from BIS and other government departments, as well as Third Sector providers and other bodies.

Dr Cheryl Turner, Head of Learning in Communities, said:

“NIACE warmly welcomes this report as an important contribution to understanding the many and diverse roles Third Sector organisations play in supporting, developing and delivering learning and training opportunities, particularly for those who are most disadvantaged and furthest from mainstream programmes. NIACE is looking forward to working in partnership with other sector bodies to take this valuable work forward to the next phase through the Third Sector Implementation Board.”