Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

College Does the Job for the Unemployed, Survey Finds: Fe News

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

College Does the Job for the Unemployed, Survey Finds: Fe News

Article excerpt

FE courses outdo government scheme to get people in work.

Top-performing colleges are helping unemployed students into sustainable jobs at a rate nearly 10 times that reported by the government's Work Programme, a survey has found.

According to the research by the Association of Colleges (AoC), nearly a quarter of colleges reported that 30 per cent or more of their unemployed students entered long-term jobs at the end of their course.

By contrast, an evaluation of the first phase of the Work Programme found that, on average, only 3.5 per cent of clients had found sustainable employment. Although the performance of the programme is expected to improve as it progresses, the figure was lower than expected if there had been no intervention at all. Only 4 per cent of colleges reported employment rates of less than 5 per cent.

The results of the survey were released as official figures showed a rise in unemployment to 7.9 per cent, with youth unemployment hitting 21.1 per cent, or almost a million under-25s.

Joy Mercer, director of policy at the AoC, said that over the past two years, colleges had transformed their working relationship with job centres, resulting in a higher number of referrals and students who were more likely to complete their courses. The average college now receives 920 referrals from Jobcentre Plus, compared with just 103 referrals from the Work Programme.

"Two years ago we would have said that the relationship with Jobcentre Plus was poor in terms of referrals. That has improved enormously," Ms Mercer said.

In London, for instance, she said that Jobcentre Plus had agreed to make the completion of English classes a priority for those with language needs. Previously, the pressure on job centres to place people in work meant that their courses were often interrupted for short-term or seasonal employment, which was not sustainable. Once students could speak English, they were much more likely to secure long-term work, Ms Mercer said.

While 44 per cent of colleges described their relationship with Jobcentre Plus as "excellent", just 7 per cent said the same of Work Programme providers. Only a small number of Work Programme clients are placed on substantial education or training programmes, with most concentrating on employability skills such as CV-writing and interview technique.

The AoC's research follows Ofsted's Skills for Employment report last year, which criticised colleges for their uneven performance in getting unemployed people into work. …

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