Look out! CLIF

12 February 2014

Column originally published in The Municipal Journal on 29 January 2014.

One of the major challenges facing the education and training of adults is how to reach people who think learning is just ‘not for them’.

In our most recent annual participation survey, the proportion of adults who said they are unlikely to take up learning in the next three years was over half (57%).

Coupled with the recent OECD adult skills survey results, this represents a huge challenge facing the UK economy.

Innovation to encourage higher participation in continuing education in turn encourages economic growth and safeguards a lasting economic recovery. Improving the confidence and labour market prospects of adults is essential to securing social mobility and social justice that many of our more disadvantaged citizens need and deserve.

NIACE was recently commissioned to manage the Community Learning Innovation Fund (CLIF) on behalf of the Skills Funding Agency to develop innovative practice in learning in communities aimed at reaching those who are socially isolated and who think that learning is simply ‘not for them’.

As CLIF began, 50% of participants were not in paid work and around a third (34%) were not taking part in any education or training. Some 46% had left full-time education aged 16 or below and 33% had absolutely no involvement in learning since leaving full-time education.

The results though have been compelling. An impressive nine out of ten individuals who took part CLIF-funded programmes now intend to get a job, volunteer, and/or continue learning.

This helps prove the argument that tailored interventions in community settings are helping people make positive changes for themselves and their families, and to take control of their lives.

CLIF projects engaged adults from very diverse backgrounds including residents of deprived areas and adults who face a number of challenges, from those with poor mental or physical health to those with a history of offending.

Take-up was impressive, with participants including high proportions of men, disabled learners and members of Black and Minority Ethnic groups.

The range of programmes on offer included money management and budgeting skills for social housing tenants; community engagement for adults with learning disabilities; and supporting older people with long-term health conditions to learn new skills, gain confidence and engage in volunteering.

Lifelong learning often starts with these very simple, tailored steps, building confidence and a sustainable progression route to better lives and better economic prospects for individuals and communities across the country.

If there is to be sustained economic growth this kind of investment in creative ways to support the education and training of our most vulnerable adults remains essential.

Using learning to help transform the lives of some of the most marginalised and socially-excluded people in society brings them closer to the jobs market and increases social mobility, addressing social challenges, including health and well-being, that underpin not only a strong economy but a just and tolerant society.