Yesterday (28 June 2022) at the AELP National Conference, the ‘Hiding the Join’ report into joining up employability and skills services was launched co-authored by Employment-Related Services Association (ERSA) and Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP)
The report written by Paul Warner from AELP and by ERSA’s Andrew Morton, ‘Hiding the Join’ comes at a pertinent time. The research also comes on the back of the government’s long awaited white paper into ‘levelling up’ being published earlier this year and the UK Shared Prosperity Fund Investment Plans being written. We are also experiencing a cost of living crisis with individuals needing to move into quality work with good pay, and opportunities for in work progression. ERSA and AELP are clear that if levelling up is to be a success for our most disadvantaged communities, then the organisations that ERSA and AELP represent will need to play a vital role. Yet to do that our research shows there needs to be a much more joined-up approach by government on policy making, procurement and delivery processes.
This is the beginning of a strong collaboration and an ongoing work stream; we hope you find the report useful.
The Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP) is a national membership body, proudly representing around 800 organisations. AELP members support thousands of businesses and millions of learners in England by delivering a wide range of training, vocational learning, and employability programmes. We support learners of all ages, in every community, and at every level of post-16 study.
ERSA (Employment Related Services Association) is the trade and membership body campaigning for high quality services for the UK’s jobseekers and low earners. We have charities, local authorities, housing associations, social enterprises, funding bodies and private sector organisations in membership. Our members are a social force for good. We exist to serve the sector and, through the sector, those who use their services.
RECOMMENDATIONS: NEW PRINCIPLES FOR POLICY DESIGN
- Policy must be motivated by the intention to remove barriers – barriers for both participants seeking to access some complementary form of employment support and skills offers, and providers who need to be able to tailor offers to individual and employer needs
- In considering policy for the interlinked areas of employability and skills, a common language and universally agreed-upon definitions are required in order for both the DfE’s and DWP’s policy agendas to be successfully implemented
- Consideration should be given to a return to a departmental format such as that of the former DfEE (Department for Education and Employment)
- Policy makers must better understand and accommodate individual area dynamics found in the relationships and networks of employers, providers, schools and colleges, local government official and Jobcentre Plus offices that operate at a local level, and that are critical to addressing our most pressing labour market problems
- All employability and skills provision should operate within the context of a national framework that works to facilitate geographical transfer of skills, ensuring that the supply of more specialised skills, or those related to new technologies, are not structurally restricted to particular areas
- For Local Skills Improvement Plans (LSIPs) to be fully affective and to fulfil the objectives set out for them, it is key that they take into account all training and employability provision in their area, irrespective of the type of institution delivering it.RECOMMENDATIONS FOR POLICY CHANGE & IMPLEMENTATION
- The need for a proper and effective all-age careers system, and how that should link across information, advice and guidance (IAG) for both employability and learning, should be central to the review by Sir John Holman, the Department for Education’s Independent Strategic Adviser on Careers Guidance
- More “pooled” budgets (using the initial model of the AEB as an example) should be co-designed and co-commissioned by all government departments with responsibilities for skills and employment provision to facilitate funding processes and funded outcomes aligned to the needs of all
- Better alignment and simplification of funding boundaries is needed across all government departments with responsibilities for skills and employment provision. This should aim to increase overlaps between localised and national funding streams, allowing providers to more efficiently plan consistent delivery across the country
- Local infrastructures should be fostered, exploiting those local networks noted above (recommendation no.4) and Local and Combined Authorities’ increasing responsibilities, to make government-sponsored Youth Hubs a success and to maximise those monies from the UK Shared Prosperity Fund (UKSPF) and Community Renewal Fund (CRF). Both the UKSPF and CRF however need to have their financial commitments to employability and skills greatly enhanced beyond current proposals
- The DWP’s major nationwide procured provisions have not been formulated with seamless linkages to skills offers in mind. This creates barriers for both participants and providers alike, both of whom must be able to maximise their provisions without burdensome restriction
- Targeted policy interventions directed toward vulnerable and disadvantaged groups need to better match up those elements of support for job seekers with incentives for prospective employers. In joining together tools like wage subsidies, levies, guaranteed job interviews, training (for both soft and technical/ accredited skills), policy makers must also balance and weigh these together, so they complement each other.RECOMMENDATIONS FOR SECTOR REPRESENTATIVE BODIES
- As representative bodies of the employability and skills sectors respectively, ERSA and AELP should consider additional ways in which joint working could further common objectives, and particularly to facilitate easier and more effective alignment between skills and employability provision. These different recommendations are addressed, not in turn, but as they emerge within a broader discussion concerning the better joining of skills/employability provision and policy.