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Fewer than 5% of People in Many Countries Benefit from Adult Learning Opportunities
December 10, 2019
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In almost one-third of countries, fewer than five per cent of adults aged 15 and above participate in education and learning programmes, according to UNESCO’s fourth Global Report on Adult Learning and Education (GRALE 4).

Adults with disabilities, older adults, refugees and migrants, minority groups and other disadvantaged segments of society are particularly under-represented in adult education programmes and find themselves deprived of crucial access to lifelong learning opportunities.

Published by the UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning, the report monitors the extent to which UNESCO Member States put their international commitments regarding adult learning and education into practice and reflects data submitted by 159 countries. It calls for a major change in the approach to adult learning and education (ALE) backed by adequate investment to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to access and benefit from adult learning and education and that its full contribution to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is realized.

“We urge governments and the international community to join our efforts and take action to ensure that no one – no matter who they are, where they live or what challenges they face – is left behind where the universal right to education is concerned,” says UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay, endorsing the report’s recommendations. “By ensuring that donor countries respect their aid obligations to developing countries, we can make adult learning and education a key lever in empowering and enabling adults, as learners, workers, parents, and active citizens.”

The publication stresses the need to increase national investment in ALE, reduce participation costs, raise awareness of benefits, and improve data collection and monitoring, particularly for disadvantaged groups.

Progress in participation in adult learning and education is insufficient

Despite low participation overall, many more than half of responding countries (57% of 152) reported an increase in the overall participation rate in adult learning and education between 2015 and 2018. Low-income countries reported the largest increase in ALE participation (73%), trailed by lower middle income and upper middle income countries (61% and 62%).

Most increases in adult learning and education participation were in sub-Saharan Africa (72% of respondents), followed by the Arab region (67%), Latin America and the Caribbean (60%) and Asia and the Pacific (49%). North America and Western Europe reported fewest increases (38%) though starting from higher levels.

The data shows persistent and deep inequalities in participation and that key target groups such as adults with disabilities, older adults, minority groups as well as adults living in conflict-affected countries are not being reached.

Women’s participation must improve further

While the global report shows that women’s participation in ALE has increased in 59 per cent of the reporting countries since 2015, in some parts of the world, girls and women still do not have sufficient access to education, notably to vocational training, leaving them with few skills and poor chances of finding employment and contributing to the societies they live in, which also represents an economic loss for their countries.

Quality is improving but not fast enough

Quality ALE can also provide invaluable support to sustainable development and GRALE 4 shows that three-quarters of countries reported progress in the quality of education since 2015. Qualitative progress is observed in curricula, assessment, teaching methods and employment conditions of adult educators. However, progress in citizenship education, which is essential in promoting and protecting freedom, equality, democracy, human rights, tolerance and solidarity, remained negligible. No more than 3% of countries reported qualitative progress in this area.

Increase in funding for adult learning and education needed

GRALE 4 shows that over the last ten years, spending on adult learning and education has not reached sufficient levels, not only in low-income countries but also in lower middle income and high-income countries. Nearly 20% of Member States reported spending less than 0.5 per cent of their education budgets on ALE and a further 14% reported spending less than 1 per cent. This information demonstrates that many countries have failed to implement the intended increase in ALE financing proposed in GRALE 3 and that ALE remains underfunded. Moreover, under-investment hits socially disadvantaged adults the hardest. Lack of funding also hampers the implementation of new policies and efficient governance practices.

The UNESCO Global Report on Adult Learning and Education (GRALE) monitors whether UNESCO Member States are putting their international commitments on adult learning and education into practice. These commitments are set out in the Belém Framework for Action (2009), the outcome document of the 6th International Conference on Adult Education (CONFINTEA VI, Belém, Brazil), and the Recommendation on Adult Learning and Education (2015). In addition to this monitoring function, each issue of GRALE examines a particular topic, the 2019 edition focusses on participation. GRALEis published every three years. The Report combines survey data, policy analysis and case studies to provide policy-makers and practitioners with recommendations and examples of good practice. It presents evidence on how adult learning and education helps countries address current challenges and contributes to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

Investigation into University Technical Colleges – Sector Response
November 1, 2019
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The National Audit Office (NAO) has published an “Investigation into UTCs” report on university technical colleges. UTCs are a type of free school that focus on providing technical education, mainly to students aged 14 to 19.

This investigation sets out the facts about the UTC programme. It covers how the programme has progressed and the financial and educational performance of UTCs. The investigation also examines the Department for Education’s plans to improve UTCs.

Meg Hillier 100x100

Meg Hillier MP, Chair of the Committee of Public Accounts, said:

“£792 million pounds has been spent but UTCs are running under capacity, often perform less well than other secondary schools and just under half of those inspected either require improvement or are inadequate.  

“UTCs were set up to improve technical education but 17% of UTCs that opened have since closed, leaving hard-pressed local authorities to find alternative places for the students affected. 

“This report provides further evidence as to why the Department for Education is my top department of concern.”

Jo Grady 100x100

UCU general secretary Jo Grady said:

‘In too many cases, University Technical Colleges have proved to be expensive failures that took funds away from the further education sector at a time when it most needed support.

‘If the government really wants to improve the standing of technical education, it must ensure that the further education sector as a whole is well-supported to deliver it. That means building capacity across the board because without proper investment, this perennial conversation about the problems facing technical education is doomed to repeat itself.’

Lord Baker100x100

Lord Baker, Chairman Baker Dearing Educational Trust said;

“This report records the price of everything and the value of nothing. UTCs should be judged by the success of their students becoming apprentices, studying STEM subjects at a University and getting a job as a technician or an engineer. For that we have the best destination data of any schools in the country.

“Because of this the Department has encouraged us to make applications for new UTCs and we are working with local employers and universities for the next round in November.”

The key findings of this report relate to:

  • The number of UTCs that have opened, and the number that have subsequently closed as UTCs
  • What capacity UTCs are operating at
  • The financial position of UTCs and formal intervention by the Education and Skills Funding Agency
  • How much has been spent on the UTC programme
  • How Ofsted rates UTCs compared with other secondary schools
  • What proportion of students from UTCs go on to become apprentices, compared with other secondary schools
  • What the Department for Education’s plans for improving UTCs are
One-fifth of Workforce in Canada, the United States, Ireland and the United Kingdom Looking for New Job
October 25, 2019
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Overall, about one in five (21 per cent) of workers are looking for a new job. And the greatest flight risk is for those in IT, finds a survey by Workhuman.

One-third (34 per cent) of workers in that sector are looking for a new job, compared to biotech, consumer goods and services, technology and telecom (each 28 per cent), industrial (25 per cent), engineering (24 per cent), financial and business services (23 per cent), insurance and retail (both 22 per cent) and health care (19 per cent).

And what are they looking for exactly? Meaningful work ranks as most important across all age groups, finds the survey of more than 3,500 full-time workers in Canada, the United States, Ireland and the United Kingdom.

Compensation and perks come in second, especially for those aged 35 to 64, followed by a supportive manager, positive company culture and fun team (especially among those 18 to 34).

People are looking at work in a different way, says Sarah Hamilton, director of HR at Workhuman in Framingham, Mass., provider of cloud-based human capital management software solutions.

“The world of work has changed so tremendously, where we’ve gone from this industrial era — where it was all about employees coming to work, and getting a paycheck, and almost like cogs on a wheel — to the human era, which is what it is today, which is we are looking at employees for their holistic skills and what they bring to the table.”

It’s not just about what people can do but what’s in their hearts and minds, she says.

“The industrial era is over and it is now the human era. And the human era is really based on this notion of people being able to expect more from out of the workplace.”

That means employees expect their employers to provide a place where they can do their best work and they can show all of the skills and ways they can contribute, says Hamilton.

“But, also, it’s employers expecting employees to bring their best selves to work as well. This leads to a mutually beneficial culture and business results. Because companies are appreciating the employees more for just … a butt in a seat which is the way companies had once looked at it before.”

Flexibility, recognition popular perks

As for workplace perks, remote or flexible work (41 per cent) and health-care coverage (27 per cent) are the most popular, followed by an employee recognition program (seven per cent), free food (six per cent), an office gym (six per cent), on-the-job training (four per cent) and referral bonuses (four per cent), found Workhuman.

Flexible work is important to all generations, as older workers may be caring for elderly parents, she says, while younger workers, who have grown up with newer technology, want the freedom that brings.

“But I think you’re actually seeing it broaden across all groups more so than you would have.”

Workhuman is a multinational company co-headquartered in Framingham, Massachusetts and Dublin, providing cloud-based, human capital management software solutions. 

What do Graduates do? Regional Edition
October 18, 2019
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A region-by-region guide to graduate destinations in the UK – with an introduction by AGCAS, insight and analysis by Charlie Ball, and commentary and data for every region of the UK

Key findings

This year’s edition of What do graduates do? takes a look at graduate destinations in the UK by region, revealing the top jobs, occupations and industries that graduates enter in each area – as well as the main occupational shortages.

  • There is no ‘UK graduate labour market’ as such. Instead, the UK is made up of a complex set of interlocking, sometimes overlapping local and regional labour markets.
  • Each region of the UK has its own character, issues of occupational supply and demand, and its own guidance and employability support challenges.
  • The picture is of an urbanised jobs market based around London and its environs, and the larger regional centres of the country.
  • Jobs are not evenly distributed throughout the UK, and tailoring careers advice can help students understand what opportunities are in their area.

Each section of the report contains a wealth of data, trends and analysis about the region in question. For example:

  • The North East has seen a 25% increase in graduates entering business, HR and finance professions.
  • 36.7% of new graduates in Yorkshire and the Humber’s business and finance sector work in Leeds.
  • 29.7% of new graduates in the East Midlands work for small and medium-sized enterprises.
  • 12.2% of all new graduates starting their careers work in the South East.
  • More than half of graduates working in London six months after graduation were originally domiciled in the capital city.
  • 90.6% of graduates starting their careers in Scotland had studied there.
What’s inside
  • Introduction by Gabi Binnie, policy and research manager at AGCAS.
  • What do graduates do in the regions? by Charlie Ball, head of higher education intelligence at Prospects.
  • Commentary and data for every region of the UK: North East, North West, Yorkshire and the Humber, East Midlands, West Midlands, East of England, South East, South West, London, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
  • National averages.
Download the full report

What do graduates do? Regional edition

  • File typePDF
  • Number of pages in document44  pages
  • File size6.7MB

Download PDF file What do graduates do? Regional edition

About the report

What do graduates do? Regional edition 2019/20 was published in October 2019. It is a region-by-region guide to graduate destinations in the UK, six months after graduation.

It is based on data from the Higher Education Statistics Agency’s (HESA) Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education (DLHE) 2016/17 survey, and the Employer Skills Survey 2017.

The report was produced by Prospects and AGCAS on behalf of HECSU. 

You can also read the regular What do graduates do? publication.

Written by
Photo: Laura Greaves

Laura Greaves Information analyst Prospects

Impetus: Research Report on Long-Term NEET
October 4, 2019
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The research report ‘The Long-Term NEET Population’ highlights that 75% of young people who are NEET for three months have been NEET for 12 months.

Most NEET young people are NEET for the long-term. This finding has significant consequences, with being long-term NEET linked to poorer health and employment outcomes decades later: a scarring effect.

To read the full report follow the link below.

https://impetus.org.uk/assets/publications/Youth-Jobs-Gap-The-Long-Term-NEET-Population.pdf

NAO Report on Support for Pupils with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities in England
September 12, 2019
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While some children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) are receiving high-quality support, many others are not getting the help they should, according to the National Audit Office (NAO). Local authorities are coming under growing financial pressure as the demand for supporting school pupils with the greatest needs rises.

In its report published on 11 Sept, “Support for pupils with special educational needs and disabilities in England” the NAO estimates that the Department for Education (DfE) gave local authorities £9.4 billion to spend on support for pupils with SEND in 2018-19 – 24.0% of their total core grant for schools.

While the DfE has increased school funding, the number of pupils identified as having the greatest needs – those in special schools and with education, health and care plans (EHC plans)* in mainstream schools – rose by 10.0% between 2013-14 and 2017-18. Over the same period, funding per pupil dropped by 2.6% in real terms for those with high needs, and also decreased for those without EHC plans.

Local authorities are increasingly overspending their budgets for children with high needs. In 2017-18, 81.3% of councils overspent compared with 47.3% in 2013-14. This is primarily driven by a 20% increase in the number of pupils attending special schools instead of mainstream education.

Local authorities have also sharply increased the amount they spend on independent special schools – by 32.4% in real terms between 2013-14 and 2017-18. In some cases, this is due to a lack of appropriate places at state special schools. More than four in five local authorities are overspending their high needs budget.

In response to overspending against these budgets, local authorities are transferring money from their budgets for mainstream schools to support pupils with high needs. They are also using up their ringfenced school reserves, which have dropped by 86.5% in the last four years. This is not a sustainable approach.

Stakeholders in the sector have raised concerns that the demand for special school places is growing because the system incentivises mainstream primary and secondary schools to be less inclusive. Mainstream schools are expected to cover the first £6,000 of support for a child with SEND from existing budgets and cost pressures can make them reluctant to admit or keep pupils with SEND. Another barrier is that schools with high numbers of children with SEND may also appear to perform less well against performance metrics.

Pupils with SEND, particularly those without EHC plans, are more likely to be permanently excluded from school than those without SEND. Pupils with SEND accounted for 44.9% of permanent exclusions in 2017/18. Evidence also suggests that pupils with SEND are more likely to experience off-rolling – where schools encourage parents to remove a child primarily for the school’s benefit – than other pupils.

While Ofsted has consistently rated over 90% of state special schools as good or outstanding, most pupils with SEND attend mainstream schools. Short Ofsted inspections of ‘good’ mainstream schools are not designed to routinely comment on SEND provision, so provide limited assurance of its quality.

The NAO has also raised questions about the consistency of support across the country as there are substantial unexplained variations between different local areas. Joint Ofsted and Care Quality Commission inspections indicate that many local areas are not supporting children as effectively as they should be.

The NAO recommends that the DfE should assess how much it would cost to provide the system for supporting pupils with SEND created by the 2014 reforms and use this to determine whether it is affordable.

The Department needs better measures of the effectiveness of SEND support in preparing pupils for their adult lives and should make changes to funding and accountability arrangements to encourage and support mainstream schools to be more inclusive.

It should also investigate the reasons for local variations to increase confidence in the fairness of the system, identify good practice and promote improvement.

Since the report was completed, on Friday 6 September, the DfE announced a review of support for pupils with SEND.

Key facts

1.3m
pupils in England identified as having special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) at January 2019
£9.4bn
our estimate of the Department for Education’s funding to support pupils with SEND in 2018-19
81.3%
proportion of local authorities that overspent their high-needs budget in 2017-18
1.0% to 5.9%variation between local authorities in the proportion of pupils aged 5 to 15 with education, health and care plans
2.6%real-terms reduction in funding for each pupil with high needs between 2013-14 and 2017-18
32.4%real-terms increase in local authorities’ spending on independent special schools between 2013-14 and 2017-18
44.9%proportion of permanent exclusions involving children with SEND in 2017/18
91.8%proportion of state special schools that Ofsted had graded as good or outstanding at August 2018
50.0%proportion of inspected local authority areas that Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission had assessed as underperforming at July 2019

Recommendations

  1. The Department should prepare for the next full Spending Review by making an evidence-based assessment of how much it would cost to provide the system for supporting pupils with SEND created by the 2014 reforms. It should use this assessment to determine whether the system is affordable, and to inform its funding and spending plans.
  2. The Department should set quantified goals, for 2020-21 onwards, including outcome measures such as metrics relating to preparing young people for adulthood, to make clear what level of performance would constitute success for the support provided for pupils with SEND. It should put in place mechanisms to collect the data needed to assess progress against these measures, including tracking long-term outcomes.
  3. The Department should review the incentives in the funding arrangements and the accountability system, and make changes that encourage and support mainstream schools to be more inclusive in terms of admitting, retaining and meeting the needs of pupils with SEND, whether they have EHC plans or require other support.
  4. The Department should identify and share good practice on how mainstream schools can effectively meet the needs of those pupils with SEND who do not have EHC plans.
  5. The Department should set out publicly the circumstances under which it considers public money should be used to pay for independent provision for pupils with SEND. The aim should be for the amount that local authorities pay for independent provision to be comparable with the amount paid for state provision for children with similar needs, unless there is a good reason for paying more.
  6. The Department should work with Ofsted to identify what more can be done to make inspections of mainstream schools, in particular short inspections, provide more assurance specifically about SEND provision that is easily accessible and clear to parents.
  7. The Department should more robustly investigate the reasons for local variations, drawing on the data available and supported by its specialist advisers and NHS England, and establish the extent to which the variations can reasonably be explained. It should challenge local areas that are outliers in respect of measures such as the proportion of pupils with EHC plans and use of high-cost provision, in order to reduce unnecessary variation, increase confidence in the fairness of the system, identify good practice and promote improvement.

*EHC plans set out a child’s legally enforceable entitlements to specific packages of support. They are for children whom local authorities have assessed as needing the most support. At January 2019, 20.6% of pupils with SEND had an EHC plan. 47.9% of those with an EHC plan attended mainstream schools and almost all others attended a special school.

In the National Audit Office report, financial years are written as, for example, ‘2017-18’ and run from 1 April to 31 March; school academic years are written as ‘2017/18’ and run from 1 September to 31 August.

A Department for Education spokesperson said:

“Helping all children and young people reach their potential is one of the core aims of this Government, including those with special educational needs. That is why the Prime Minister has committed to providing an extra £700 million next year to make sure these children get an education that helps them develop and thrive as adults.

“We have improved special educational needs support to put families at the heart of the system and give them better choice in their children’s education, whether in mainstream or special school. Last week we launched a review of these reforms, to make sure every child, everywhere, gets an education that prepares them for success.”

Further information from DfE:

  • The Children and Families Act 2014 (that sets out the basis of the SEND system) secures the general presumption in law of mainstream education in relation to decisions about where children and young people with SEN should be educated. The Equality Act 2010 prohibits schools from discriminating against disabled children and young people in respect of admissions for a reason related to their disability.
  • The Department for Education has created new special schools in response to the increasing number of pupils with complex special educational needs and are committed to delivering even more provision to ensure every child is able to access the education that they need.
What Motivates Adults to Learn? A Report by Nesta
September 5, 2019
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The labour market is changing fast. Fifty-four per cent of all employees will require extensive upskilling or reskilling by 2022 (World Economic Forum, 2018) and eighty-five per cent of jobs in the European Union now require at least a basic level of digital skills (Cedefop, 2018). 

To meet the evolving needs of the job market, workers, business and governments need to adapt to a culture of lifelong learning by providing citizens with high-quality training opportunities.

However, a well-designed skills policy or training service doesn’t always translate into uptake. Workers also need to feel motivated to learn new skills and those who are most vulnerable to labour market changes are not always receptive or willing to reskill. So uncovering what drives motivation to learn is a priority.

Using evidence from a rapid evidence assessment (REA), carried out by CFE Research, this report by Nesta’s Digital Frontrunners identifies what motivates working adults to take part in and complete training in digital and digital-complementary skills.

Key findings
Motivation to learn is complex

Many factors drive people to learn. On the one hand, learners are motivated by external rewards, such as financial incentives, improved job opportunities or approval from a manager. However, learning also needs to be personally rewarding to feel worthwhile. Regardless of the external rewards like accreditation or incentives, it must be enjoyable, challenging and interesting (Kantar, 2018).

Without both these internal and external motivators, people are unlikely to take up or complete training. Therefore, skills policies and training services which consider both are the most likely to succeed.

Behaviour change models can help policymakers understand how external and internal factors interact to drive motivation to learn and design accordingly. The report outlines how the COM-B model (Michie et al, 2011) could be particularly useful in this respect.

Drivers to learn are personal

It’s tempting to give policymakers a list of general barriers and enablers to learning for them to consider when designing training services. However, in reality the choice to start training is complex and personal. For each adult, the decision to participate in learning comes at a tipping point where ‘personal benefits outweigh personal costs’ (Kantar, 2018). For some people the balance might be tipped when the financial costs of training are reduced. For others, it might be when they have access to childcare.

There is also some evidence that demographic factors like age, gender and education level affect motivation to learn. Across Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries, women tend to participate in training slightly less than men (OECD, 2019). Younger adults, those with higher education levels and higher socioeconomic groups are most likely to be learning (Kantar 2018). However, we need more granular research to understand the motivators and barriers for different groups when it comes to learning digital and digital-complementary skills specifically.

Self-reflection and goal setting increase motivation to learn

One of the most effective methods for helping learners to stay motivated is by pairing the learner with a trusted advisor who knows them personally, and knows the job or training course the learner is interested in (Kantar, 2018). The advisor can help the learner navigate their own personal barriers and enablers to training.

Some studies suggest that careers guidance techniques that promote self-reflection and goal setting successfully encourage workers to learn new skills (Stauffer et al, 2014; Eisele et al, 2013).

We need to test and learn to find out what works

Crucially, our rapid evidence assessment highlights a lack of evidence about what works to motivate workers to learn digital or digital-complementary skills. Although Individual Learning Accounts (ILAs) are being rolled out in several countries, there isn’t yet much strong evidence that they work – although a forthcoming OECD report is expected to conclude that ILAs can be an important, emerging approach to training interventions which help structure learning over a career. We believe it is critical that governments invest in evaluating what works and identifying best practice.

Currently, there is no shared framework to measure the success of training services, which makes it hard to compare and contrast approaches. There would be value in creating a shared set of measures for effectiveness that could be used across the skills system.

What next?

There is more to be done to understand what policies can effectively increase workers’ motivation to learn digital and digital-complementary skills. Throughout 2019 and 2020, Nesta’s Digital Frontrunners will test training and learning interventions to help policymakers understand what works for lifelong learning. Digital Fronrunners will also use evidence from the REA as a foundation for primary research, and to inform discussions and practical projects in the future.

Digital Frontrunners is a programme led by Nesta that aims to find solutions to the challenges of digital transformation.

You can download the full report following the link below.

https://bit.ly/2Hy89s0

Report authors:
Dr Deirdre Hughes OBE
Alex Beard
Alex Stutz
John Higton
Dr Guy Birkin
Andrew Corley
Chris Milner

Parents Prefer Degrees Combining Work and Study for their Children
August 22, 2019
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Three-quarters (75%) of parents think high-quality work experience is the best way to develop the skills employers want, according to the Chartered Management Institute (CMI)

Its survey of parents of 11- to 18-year-olds showed that, with record numbers of young people going through university clearing this year, parents rate degree programmes that combine work and study over traditional university degrees.

Nearly two-thirds of parents (64%) favoured a degree apprenticeship with a major company like Rolls-Royce over a degree at Oxford or Cambridge (36%). Nearly three-quarters (73%) rated a degree that combines full-time work with study over a traditional three-year university degree based on lectures and seminars alone (27%).

Almost three-quarters of parents (71%) also thought the opportunity to develop management, enterprise and leadership skills was important.

The research was published ahead of the announcement of GCSE results on 22 August.

Speaking to HR magazine, head of policy at CMI Rob Wall said that businesses are generally well prepared to provide rewarding, structured work experience placements.

“We know that employers really value work-ready young people and what they can offer. Previous research has found that most employers are already offering structured work experience placements and many of them are working directly with schools to make this happen. We also believe that the government’s T-Level qualifications will really help to see more work experience placements on offer,” he said.

Wall added that some businesses may still encounter challenges when implementing work experience placements, however. “There are often difficulties with knowing how to reach out to young people, and for some companies it can be difficult to find the time and resources to feel like they can give young people the best experience,” he said. “We know that there’s always more that employers can do; particularly around providing specific technical opportunities and reaching out to educators.”

Wall offered his suggestions for how employers can provide successful work experience placements.

“We’d say that providing a good induction, which gives students the opportunity to understand the business, is really important. Secondly, they need to make sure they’re well prepared through developing a work plan where they get a sense of what it’s like around the business,” he said.

“Employers should provide them with a mentor or buddy to ensure they’re feeling properly supported, or even to just make sure that they’ve got someone to go to lunch with, and provide feedback to let them know how they got on. HR can play an important role in supporting managers to do this and setting the right culture and policies. If they get it right they can get future talent and help to train the workforce of the future.”

The CMI polled 1,003 parents of children aged 11 to 18 years old.

Job Insecurity May Be Overstated
August 5, 2019
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Employers should focus on improving conditions for all workers, says the CIPD as its research finds insecure work is not as prevalent as people think

Employment insecurity affects many but overall work in the UK is as secure as it was 20 years ago, according to research from the CIPD. Its report

 Megatrends: Is work in the UK really becoming less secure? 

analysed Office for National Statistics data and found that non-permanent employees – which includes the self-employed, temporary workers, unpaid family workers and those on a government training scheme – make up 20% of the UK workforce, a share that has not increased since 1998.

The casualisation of work has received increased media attention over the past few years, with companies including Deliveroo and Uber coming under fire from unions and campaigners for low pay, irregular hours and unclear employment statuses.

However, the share of ‘involuntary’ temporary workers (defined as those who would rather have a permanent job) is highly cyclical and ebbs and flows with the economic climate, the researchers noted.

It peaked at 41.3% in 1995, before falling to 26.4% in 2008, the report stated. It increased again during the economic downturn to 40% in 2013, before falling again to 26.8% by 2018.

There have been no long-term increases in the under-employment rate of workers who want more hours, which was just under 7% between 2002 and 2007. This then peaked at 10.3% in 2013 and fell back to 7.4% in 2017.

The research also drew comparisons between the UK and the EU on various measures of employment security, finding that the UK has a low figure for non-permanent employment compared to other EU countries. However, it also has a more unequal wage structure and a higher share of low-paid jobs than most EU states.

Overall, 85% of the labour force were categorised as ’employees’ in 2018, compared to 87% in 1998. The proportion of full-time employees in 2018 was 63%, compared to 65% in 1998.

The report said that, while it’s important to improve the conditions and rights of people working atypically, policymakers need to focus more attention on improving the quality of employment for people in ‘regular’ jobs by doing more to address the causes of low pay and preventing discrimination at work.

Commenting on the report, Ben Willmott, head of public policy at the CIPD, said:

“This report counters some of the common rhetoric that employment in the UK is becoming more insecure. On a wide range of indicators the evidence suggests that, overall, employment security has remained broadly stable over the past two decades with very little evidence of any big structural increase in casual and insecure work. Increases in employment insecuritywhere they have occurred seem to be cyclical, linked to economic downturns, rather than a long-term trend.”

Willmott said that this means job quality overall should be a priority for employers and the government: “This suggests more attention should be paid by policymakers and employers to improving job quality and workplace productivity across the economy to tackle problems such as low pay and discrimination, not simply on improving the rights and security of atypical workers, important though this is.”

He added that the government needs to offer support for employers on how to improve work, as part of its Industrial Strategy.

“The government needs to outline in its Industrial Strategy additional measures to work with employers to improve how people are managed and developed,” he said. “For example, through ensuring sector deals are contingent on plans to improve leadership and people management practices, providing enhanced business support to small firms, and improving labour market enforcement.”

The research follows the UK’s first Good Work Standard being introduced on 29 July, which will accredit businesses as good employers. It was launched by mayor of London Sadiq Khan in partnership with a number of organisations, including the CIPD.

London-based companies participating in this voluntary scheme will be measured against a set of criteria including fair pay, working conditions, employee wellbeing, the availability of skills training, progression and diversity in recruitment.

A number of employers including EY, KPMG, London City Airport, the Metropolitan Police, Transport for London and the London Fire Brigade have already been accredited. The standard has been heralded as a potential template for other metropolitan or local authorities.

Latest Increase in Unconditional Offers Highlights Need for Radical Change
July 31, 2019
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This year, almost two in five (38 per cent) of 18 year old applicants from England, Northern Ireland, and Wales received an offer for a place at university that could be considered unconditional, compared to a third (34%) last year and just 1% six years ago, according to new analysis released today (30 Jul).

A report from UCAS also reveals that the total number of unconditional offers made to 18-year-olds in England, Wales and Northern Ireland this year was 75,845, which represents 7.8% of all offers. This is up on last year’s 67,915 (7.1% of all offers) and considerably higher than the 2,985 (0.4% of all offers) made in 2013.

UCAS’ report ‘Unconditional offers – an update for 2019’, published within 22 working days of the 30 June application deadline, shows 97,045 students who are typically yet to complete their qualifications received an offer with an unconditional component. This is a rise from 2018, when 87,540 of these applicants received an offer of this type – which represented a third (34 per cent).

In 2019, a quarter of 18 year old applicants (63,830) from England, Northern Ireland, and Wales received a ‘conditional unconditional’ offer, up from a fifth (52,145) at this point last year. ‘Conditional unconditional’ offers are initially made by the university as conditional, then updated to unconditional if the offer is accepted as the student’s first (firm) choice.

Applicants from the most advantaged backgrounds, using the POLAR4 measure, were slightly more likely to receive a conditional unconditional offer than those from the most disadvantaged backgrounds.

Universities’ offer-making policies are typically confirmed up to a year before the start of the admissions cycle, and they will usually be consistent throughout the cycle to ensure fairness. By 31 March 2019, universities and colleges had already made 98% of this year’s offers to 18 year olds from England, Wales, and Northern Ireland.

Previous UCAS survey insight  has shown that around two thirds of students receiving a conditional unconditional offer felt positive about them, with some reporting a reduction in stress levels before sitting their exams. UCAS’ 2018 End of Cycle Report  showed that those holding a confirmed place on an undergraduate course were more likely to miss their predicted grades than those holding a conditional offer.

Clare Marchant, UCAS’ Chief Executive, said:

‘Students’ best interests must be the number one consideration for universities and colleges when making offers. We have expanded our information and advice to students  on all types of offers, as well as producing a series of good practice resources  to support admissions teams when making unconditional offers.

‘The use of unconditional offers remains a complex issue and continues to evolve. We look forward to working with the Office for Students and Universities UK on their respective upcoming admissions practice reviews, to deliver meaningful recommendations.

‘Clearing, the post-qualifications application route, is now open. With student choice at the heart of the UK’s application system, we’ve streamlined the process  for those who have changed their minds and now want to make a new choice. Anyone can apply to the 30,000 courses with places on offer for this September, including those students who might have accepted an unconditional offer.’

A Department for Education spokesperson said:

“What sets the UK’s world-leading universities apart is our relentless focus on quality and this must be protected.

“There is a place for unconditional offers, however this data highlights the continued rise in their use and we know some students who accept unconditional offers can be more likely to miss their predicted A Level grades. We also have particular concerns about the use of conditional unconditional offers, which can potentially pressure students into accepting a place which may not the best option for them.

“Many institutions are already taking steps to address the rise in unconditional offers and we hope these efforts continue, with the figures showing a different picture next year. We look forward to seeing the results of the OfS’ and UUK’s reviews of admissions practices to ensure they work in the best interests of students.”

The University and College Union (UCU) said the time had come to adopt a post-qualification admissions (PQA) system – preferred in the rest of the world – where students apply to university after they receive their exam results.

UCU acting general secretary Paul Cottrell said:

‘Unconditional offers have made a mockery of exams and put teachers under unfair pressure when it comes to predicted grades. Unconditional offers put students under enormous pressure to make a snap decision about their future and can encourage some to take their foot off the gas, instead of striving for excellence.

‘The continuing rise of unconditional offers demonstrates the stark failings of our current admissions system. It is time for us to join the rest of the world and adopt a post-qualifications admission system so we can make university offers based on actual achievements instead of guesswork.’

Alistair Jarvis, Chief Executive of Universities UK, said:

“Our recently announced ‘Fair admissions review’ is bringing together school, college, university and UCAS leaders to ensure offer making practices are fair and transparent, underpinned by clear criteria and operating in the best interests of students.

“There are clear benefits in universities being able to use a variety of offer making practices to reflect an individual student’s circumstances, potential and the context of their application, and to support different groups such as students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

“An important principle of the UK system is that universities decide independently which students they accept; but with this comes a responsibility to explain why and how places are awarded, and to show the public and students why different types of offers are made.”

Research shows that only one in six (16%) university applicants achieve the exam grade points that they were predicted. While UCAS has found that holding an unconditional offer increases the chances of missing a predicted grade by two or more grades by 6.4 percentage points.

Overall, 80% of applications from 18 year olds in England, Northern Ireland, and Wales received an offer (either conditional, unconditional, or conditional unconditional) this year, tying the record of 2018.