Report says not enough being done for excluded and Careers advice must be improved


Following a series of roundtable discussions and an open consultation, the National Skills Forum and Associate Parliamentary Skills Group launched the final report of their inquiry into skills and social inclusion, in Parliament in early February. The report, Doing Things Differently: Step Changes in Skills and Inclusion focuses on the impact of skills policy on three disproportionately excluded groups: offenders and ex-offenders; people with disabilities; and black and minority ethnic learners. In bringing together both the skills and equalities agendas, this report argues that better access to skills and training can create a more inclusive labour market, bringing economic advantage as well as helping to create a fairer and more mobile society.  The report outlines recommendations on several key themes including: increasing the participation of these particular groups in vocational learning and apprenticeships, raising aspiration through careers guidance, making the allocation of skills funding more flexible, rewarding training providers who perform well on equality and diversity, and ensuring that these learners have the right skills necessary to gain employment.

Careers Education and Guidance was widely criticized by participants in the inquiry and these groups of learners are steered into low skills stereotypical work sectors serving to perpetuate the cycle of inequality.  Participants argued that careers guidance must be learner centred. Greater professional development of those involved in delivering Careers guidance is critical, particularly the use of specialized training to ensure that guidance is tailored to the needs of different learner groups. This was similarly identified by the Skills Commission Inquiry into information advice and guidance which noted that high quality careers guidance increases equality of opportunity.  Looking at the offenders group the report noted that 52% of male offenders and 71% of female offenders have no qualifications whatsoever. 48% of prisoners have literacy skills at or below Level 1 and 65% have numeracy skills at or below Level 1.

The report estimated that £ 30 million is wasted each year on prisoners being transferred before they complete education courses,   and so urgent improvements to the system are needed. It uncovered evidence that not enough is being done to tackle the issue of ex offenders unable to secure work because of inadequate or irrelevant training leading to poor skills and a lack of qualifications.  Improving education and skills alone could help cut re-offending and save up to £ 325 million a year in the process.  The report looked at each group in turn making recommendations:

For Black & Minority Ethnic Learners

  • Government communicating more effectively to parents of BME learners the learning options and careers choices available;
  • Government (DCSF) and Training & Development Agency to address negative aspirations of BME learners by providing enhanced career guidance;
  • Office for Fair Access should encourage Russell Group universities to participate in careers guidance at institutions with a high BME student intake

For Offenders

  • Greater use of release on temporary licence for work experience and work trials to boost ex-offenders employability;
  • Employer network to be set-up to share knowledge and best practice on employing exoffenders;
  • Government to include education & training as inherent part of sentencing process, especially for those on short-term sentences;
  • Participation in education & training should be made integral to the daily prison regime
  • Government must raise investment in IT learning resources, such as the ‘Virtual Campus’ e-learning initiative to help offenders continue their education despite transfer between prisons

For people with disabilities

  • Employers and government should partner to encourage employers to promote equality and diversity and to target underrepresented groups within their sector;
  • Government needs to simplify funding mechanisms to support disabled learners and reduce the bureaucratic burden on disabled learners, their families and employers wishing to access training;
  • Learners with disabilities should be given greater access to training in a job related     environment to help better prepare them for the world of work.

The inquiry is sponsored by the TEC Trust Fund, a charitable fund established to further the pursuit of skills excellence in the UK.

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