Skills provision for unemployed adults has never been more important. Skills allow people to escape the low pay, no pay cycle in which those with low skills can all too often find themselves trapped.

They also allow them to work in a new occupation if poor health or changing economic demand means that they cannot return to a former job.

However skills provision for unemployed adults is complex territory. It requires providers to work with Jobcentre Plus to engage and often support employers to recruit, to align provision with local labour market-relevant skills, and to effectively engage the unemployed and then support them through the provision of flexible, short courses that will lead to jobs..

The recent Skills Funding Agency announcement of Job Outcome Payments will require providers to gather evidence of learners remaining in work for four weeks if they leave their course for a job without obtaining a qualification.

Providers are making good progress. Statistics covering August 2011 to January this year shows that 123,000 learners have benefited from support for the unemployed.

Get Britain Working and statistics for mandatory programmes show that up to February 2012, 7,390 learners had taken part in sector-based work academies and 25,570 had begun training under skills conditionality arrangements.

The next release of statistics at the end of June will surely show increasing momentum and a developing market as more referrals are made and more providers get involved.

For many providers, their increased capacity from investing 2.5 per cent of their 2011/12 Adult Skills Budget in developing infrastructure is only just beginning to reap rewards.
The full impact will be seen in 2012/13 as more vacancies come up through talking to employers and supporting learners in their applications. The full impact of the increased flexibility that Jobcentre Plus district managers will have to commission providers to deliver innovative solutions for employers and learners will also have an impact.

Jobseekers – and young jobseekers in particular – sometimes have a bad attitude to work”

FE colleges, independent training providers (ITPs) and adult and community learning providers also are making an important contribution.

ITPs are in a prime position as they can engage employers that they know within the business community. They can also draw on their long-standing experience in providing sector-specific and vacancy-specific pre-employment training..

Two guides published by NIACE this week can also help. The first, on managing challenging behaviour, and will help providers support unemployed learners who show inappropriate or non-participative behaviour; the second (and an important one ) looks at working with micro-businesses.

Twenty-four per cent of UK job vacancies are within businesses that have between one and four employees. Micro-business ITPs are often part of micro business networks and therefore are in a good position to help their learners secure more of these jobs. Large FE colleges also could work with these micro-business ITPs to enable their learners to access these vacancies.

A number of recently published reports point to employers’ concerns that jobseekers – and young jobseekers in particular – sometimes have a bad attitude to work. This has raised questionsas to whether we should focus on developing helpful attitudes and timekeeping rather than on qualifications.

We have to help learners acquire both. A bad attitude is clearly a deal breaker but qualifications as get the learner an interview. This is why the combination of training, work experience and a guaranteed interview through the sector-based work academy model is proving so effective.

Rob Gray,
senior project officer, NIACE