Can learning change lives?On 1 Feb 2002 in Personnel Today Comments are closed. Previous Article Next Article Related posts:No related photos. Many major developments projects are under way to receive a major push. But are we expecting too much? Elaine Essery gathers the opinions of majorplayersThis year sees a number of further developments in the learning and skillsarena: the creation of Sector Skills Councils, the national roll-out ofJobCentre Plus, the advancement of the Government’s Workforce Developmentproject and the introduction of the Entry to Employment initiative. Last December learning providers and policy makers attended Changing LivesThrough Learning, a conference organised by the Centre for Economic and SocialInclusion, to survey recent and forthcoming reforms and discuss theirimplications. Training Magazine contacted some of the speakers to ask them: Inwhat ways can learning change lives? And should the impetus come fromGovernment, the employer or the individual? Peter Little OBEChief executive, Birmingham RathboneLearning absolutely can and should change lives and I’m very enthusiasticabout the potential of current reforms to learning and skills. Entry toEmployment could make a tremendous difference to people who have learningdifficulties, but it’s all down to the implementation. It’s essential we getthe right structures, funding and support mechanisms in place. It needs to beflexible enough to meet individual needs and, in order for the learning to workso that people can get employment skills, the period of entitlement must belong enough. I’d be concerned if the idea was to get a quick throughput ofpeople and we must make sure it doesn’t happen that way. Ian PalmerJobCentre Plus, secretariatJobCentre Plus will be bringing into the system a much wider range ofclients and we’re hoping to create many more opportunities for individuals toimprove their skills. Our advisers will assess the prospect each person has ofgetting back into work and identify what barriers exist. Our relationship withproviders will be about reviewing the training that is available to make surethe needs of this new group of people are being met. The key is to be able todevelop individuals so that they have the skill sets that employers are lookingfor, to bridge the gap between the vast pool of labour we have access to andthe skills shortages that exist. Andy WestwoodSenior policy advisor, The Industrial SocietyIf we really want to change lives through learning, we’ve also got to changethe way jobs are constructed. We have got to raise the skills people have atintermediate level and to raise the number of jobs where people can use thoseskills. Raising one without the other would create as many problems as we haveanyway – if you raise the quality of jobs on offer then we’ll have a problemwith skills shortages; if you raise skills, you’ll have people’s expectationsdashed as they go into jobs that don’t need them. Employers have to get theirheads around using higher skill strategies. It’s at least as much a challengefor employers as it is for individuals. Sarah FitzpatrickWorkforce Development Team, Performance and Innovation UnitWe consider it very important that those who don’t currently receive theopportunity for work-based development do so. Our role is to look at how toraise demand. A range of ideas and principles to get demand from individualsand among employers is set out in our report. Placing more purchasing power inthe hands of individuals and employers can be very powerful in raising demand,as well as changing the system so it is not supply-side driven. Governmentpriority for spending is on basic skills, but we want employers to takeresponsibility where their responsibility lies. We need to encourage employersto think about the skills they can develop in their workers that will help themsucceed in their business. If interventions come from that side they’re morelikely to be effective. Joan MunroHead of local Government NTOSector Skills Councils can offer a new direction for skills development bybeing higher profile organisations than most NTOs have managed to be. The ideais that they’re the voice for employers and ultimately employers need to driveeducation much more than they do at the moment. But it’s easy to say educationshould be employer led – you need an effective mechanism for knowing whatemployers want. At present, a lot of courses are out of date or don’t leadanywhere and people doing them are misled in thinking they’re going to leadthem to employment. Employers need to tell learning providers exactly what itis they need. That’s the challenge for Sector Skills Councils. Paul ConveryDirector, Centre for Economic and Social InclusionThere’s a fuzzy line somewhere around NVQ level 2, tending towards level 3.Those below that level earn less and have a worse work-life balance. The issueis how to help people climb a number of steps from the bottom of a deep pool sothat they can come up and breathe air. The Government has to be the agent thatdoes most, but employers have to see skills as an investment and something goodfor business. It’s a fallacy that you have to take people a long, long way – forexample, those with poor literacy and numeracy skills can have very good keyskills. We have to look at ways in which firms can raise their sights.