Long-term unemployed people need skills training at the right time

30 September 2013

In response to the proposals for literacy courses, made by the Chancellor, George Osborne, at the Conservative Party Conference, as part of the Help-to-Work Programme, NIACE believes robust initial and diagnostic individual assessments to support the learning and skills needs of each participant are needed at the start of the Work Programme rather than following it.

Tom Stannard, Director of Communications and Public Affairs at NIACE, said:

“We are pleased to hear that skills training will be part of the Government’s approach in helping unemployed people, especially those who have been out of work for a long time. The reason many people are out of work long-term is because they lack the skills needed for the modern-day workplace. Work Programme Participants need a proper, initial skills assessment, which is then followed – throughout the process – by support to not only help them gain new skills, but to support them to adapt to the ever-changing world of work. This means that, like all other workers, they will need to be prepared to learn throughout their lives.

“If participants get a proper skills assessment and the support to gain new skills at the start of their time on the Work Programme then they would be more likely to get a job before they complete it. An effective Work Programme, with the right assessments and training schedule, will go a long way to helping those who have been out of work for a long time to secure the sustained and fulfilling careers they deserve.”

The skills assessments are one of seven proposals NIACE has made in its response to The Department of Work and Pensions consultation on the commissioning of the Work Programme. These proposals should help the Work Programme to work more effectively for participants and ensure they complete the Programme better prepared for the labour market.

The seven proposals are:

1. A more demanding set of minimum service standards required of all Work Programme providers, to be specified by the DWP and based on research into what works.

2. A job outcome pricing differentiation based on robust data relating to the actual costs of helping different groups of Work Programme participants into sustained employment.

3. A new form of quality control.

4. The voice of clients feeding into quality improvement and audit systems.

5. Robust initial and diagnostic individual assessments at the start of the process to support the learning and skills needs of each participant.

6. The establishment of an innovation fund to test and share best practice.

7. Anomalies need to be addressed, especially, in the different delivery systems between England and Wales, which disadvantage Work Programme clients.

NIACE is also pleased to see progress, today, on the four questions put to the Universities Minister, David Willetts, on part-time Higher Education, following his announcement that fee loans are to be available for those studying engineering and technology part-time as second degrees.

At the Adult Learners’ Week Parliamentary Reception held in May, Mr Willetts directly addressed the previous government’s decision that students enrolling for qualifications at an existing or lower level than those already held should be ineligible for public support.

He said, then, that, “ELQ is a part of the problem”. Although he went on to say that “we all of us have views on that, but don’t immediately have the resources to fund it”, he did at the time make a commitment to consider evidence on how the policy might be relaxed to improve participation in particular subjects.