Why you need to care about adult learning

Apprenticeships & Adult Education discusses the importance of adult learning and why developing employees skills can help businesses stand ahead of the competition

Research from SEMLEP (South East Midlands Local Enterprise Partnership) shows that within five years 65% of jobs in our area will need workers with a Level 4 qualification (roughly equivalent to completion of first year at university) or above. Already today, a shortage of people with the right skills is seen by more employers than anything else, locally and nationally, as the greatest barrier to growth. One of our main reasons for existing at Milton Keynes College is to try to bridge that gap, but we can’t do it without you.

There are many reasons adults who are falling behind in the skills market are reluctant to retrain. The effort (and studying is an effort, especially if you’re already working full time) has to be seen to be worth it. The perceived benefits must outweigh the costs. The lower an individual’s existing skills level the harder it is to reach the tipping point where they will take the plunge to learn. The point is that if we want a skilled workforce (and by we, I mean educators and employers alike) we have to create the conditions where people believe further study is the logical and most positive direction to follow.

From the College’s perspective we advertise, we hold open evenings, we engage in all kinds of activities to let people know there are courses available, different possibilities in terms of flexible hours, funding and so on. The Andrew Peck building on the College’s Bletchley campus has become a dedicated centre for adult learners who no longer have to feel out of place, surrounded by and sharing facilities with teenage students. So what can you do?

Firstly, help us make sure we teach the skills your business needs. We set great store in the importance of employers being involved in curriculum design. We don’t teach skills which are outdated or irrelevant because employers tell us what their needs are. Talk to us. Tell us where those hard-to-fill knowledge gaps are and we can fill them. Consider the relative costs of improving the skills of an existing employee against recruiting someone new. How long does it take a new employee to become sufficiently engrained in company culture and processes to be genuinely productive? How much more efficient would it be for an existing staff member to learn more skills? How encouraged would other members of staff be to follow a similar path if they see it leads to career development? Can you make it easier for an employee to retrain by helping either financially with whatever course costs there may be or by being understanding about the time needed to pursue those studies?

If this sounds like it may be time-consuming, consider the hours you spend on recruitment; creating a job spec, placing and paying for advertising, interviewing, inducting… It’s a pretty lengthy list.

If you want to fill the skills gap for your company, talk to us and let us see if we can help.

Tracey Matthews, Assistant Principal  at MK College
Tracey Matthews, Assistant Principal at MK College

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