Examination of Witnesses (Questions 28
WEDNESDAY 13 DECEMBER 2000
28. David, John and Ruth, you are very welcome.
You have sat through the previous session and there may be some
food for thought there, I do not know.
(Mr Gibson) Absolutely, yes.
29. We are delighted to have you here and thank
you for the written evidence which you have already provided.
We are looking forward to what more you are going to tell us now.
If I may start myself before handing over to my other colleagues.
Do not all three of you feel obliged to answer every question,
but if you do want to add anything then you are more than welcome
to do so. What would you say the further education sector's role
in the New Deal for Young People and other welfare programmes
(Mr Gibson) Can I thank you for the invitation to
be a part of this process. As far as further education is concerned,
as you know, we have each year more than four million students
within further education that deal not only with the academicand
it is an interesting fact that 40 per cent of students that go
to university now go through a further education collegebut,
on the other hand, the other area you are talking about which
is skills needs. For those who ever doubt the role and the need
for FE let them be asked to find a plumber in London! The range
of skills is very broad. I was at a college in Manchester where
we went from horticulture, floristry, hairdressing, beauty therapy
through to printing through to media, music and technology, so
it really is across the greatest gamut. While colleges have always
got room for improvement and currently, with the active encouragement
of the Secretary of State, we continue to strive for better achievement
rates and better retention, I think the sector is absolutely critical
to the development of UK plc as far as skills training and retraining
30. Why do you think the Government included
the Full-Time Education and Training option in the New Deal?
(Mr Gibson) I think number one is there was a lot
of experience of difficulty through JSA when people were being
pulled out of FE because they had not done enough job applications
that week or people were being watched. That was negative. A lot
of students who wanted to learn were being stopped. I think this
is the positive side. If I can say on behalf of us collectively,
as far as the sector is concerned, we see the role of New Deal
as being a very, very positive one. The other thing is I do think
it has got a real role in the whole of the agenda talked about
previously by the Professor and that is in accosting the social
inclusion agenda. You know, Chairman, and I am sure other Members
of the Committee are well aware, it is rare for one person to
have one problem, the difficulty is the complex nature and the
interchange of a number of different problems. I do think FE has
a major role to play, not least of all there.
(Mr Brennan) I am conscious of your stricture at the
beginning that you would not wish us all to come in on every question
but there are just a couple of points I would like to add to what
David said there. Your question was why did the Government have
a Full-Time Education and Training option in New Deal and I think
there are two general points one might add to what David said.
One is that further education has had a long history of involvement
in programmes for dealing with the disadvantaged, the unemployed,
those who have got various kinds of problems in accessing the
labour market and so on. There is a very considerable tradition
of experience to build on there. I think the other thing that
is also part of the thinking of this is there is an enormous body
of evidence to suggest that those who are better qualified are
a lot more likely to get jobs, to get better pay, to sustain employment
and so on, and all the evidence is very much that those who are
unskilled and unqualified are the least likely to enter sustained
employment. It is part of the contribution of the FE sector that
it is able to add that value in terms of qualifications and lift
people up to the point where they have the kinds of skills and
attitudes and so on that employers are looking for. It was a combination
of those two contributions which were in the minds of Ministers
and so on when they designed the programme.
31. Thank you. Bearing in mind that there is
a section of the young population and of the adult population
who would not be seen dead in anything that looks like a classroom,
what do you think colleges can offer to people on the New Deal?
(Mr Gibson) I will ask Ruth to comment on this.
(Ms Silver) My college is Lewisham College in South
East London, the college nearest the Dome serving the sixteenth
most needy community in the UK. We have been amazed at how popular
New Deal has been with young people. The key is not to offer them
a classroom, very seriously not to do that, so we have a curriculum
programme that is designed to do two things: to tackle the New
Deal aspect for the young people but alsoforgive the phraseto
normalise them. So for 15 hours of the week they are in teams
of New Deal peers working on basic skills, job search and so on,
and for the other 15 hours they are in among the normal student
body so that they seem like everybody else. They will be following
vocational programmes, mostly in workshops: engineering workshops,
construction workshops, catering, media studios, some even doing
counselling training. You have to play the dialectic that enables
them to be ever so ordinary, the same as everybody else, but also
meet their needs in a way that respects them as not being the
same as everybody else.
32. If we can look at the FTET option in a bit
more detail. One of the shocking things that struck me about the
statistics that have come out of the New Deal is the fact that
fewer than 20 per cent of people who start an FTET option actually
complete it. I want to go into that a bit because I think if you
say to the man or woman in the street "there is a less than
20 per cent completion rate" they will see that as a more
than 80 per cent failure rate of the option in some sense. I just
wonder if you could give your reaction as colleges and providers
of that option to the fact that you get a completion rate of less
than 20 per cent?
(Mr Gibson) I will ask John to start and then I think
we would all like to come in.
(Mr Brennan) Can I add one or two things in relation
to that. One is, as Professor Millar was bringing out earlier
on, many of the individuals who are going into the Full-Time Education
and Training option are at least a step away from employment readiness,
they have a variety of social problems of different kinds. You
commented earlier on on some of the characteristics: drug abuse,
alcohol abuse, social, domestic, housing problems and so on. Many
of the individuals who are going through these programmes have
a considerable degree of need for support alongside the basic
skill acquisition and knowledge acquisition which goes with the
qualification programmes that they are following. I think it is
the experience of many colleges that it takes a lot of intensive
time and effort to try to support those individuals through those
programmes and when you have some fairly firm time constraints
on the time over which you are allowed to tackle them, when you
are faced with pressures, as colleges sometimes are, to move people
on into employment opportunities when they are available, then
I think it is not entirely unexpected that completion rates are
relatively low. I think one of the things that we feel about the
programme is that you do need to tailor the programmes much more
closely to individual needs. A greater length, where that is appropriate,
and a different mix of learning activities and so on would be
a helpful way of broadening the programme out and enabling it
to tackle those more disadvantaged groups.
(Ms Silver) The retention rate at Lewisham College
is 72 per cent and job placement is 40 per cent.
33. That sounded so important to me, could you
repeat the statistics?
(Ms Silver) 72 per cent retention and nearly 40 per
cent job placement at the end. There are a couple of reasons for
that. First of all, we have seen the challenge of New Deal, which
we really welcomed for our community because Deptford is pretty
difficult, as being worth investing lots of staff time in. We
have changed our intention from making people work ready to getting
them to be job ready. My colleagues, and my managers are here,
actually find jobs that we train people for. We pay them when
they go into the job for the first 16 weeks. The American phrase
is "internship". They then go on to take up full-time
employment in good jobs. There is something about the quality
of the jobs on offer. We happen now to be connected to Canary
Wharf, so there are more ordinary good jobs available. That has
happened because of extremely strong partnerships with the Employment
Service's team and their action teams which really do follow up
once people are in work, so there is support once they are out
of the hands of the colleges and they do stay there. It means
that I have had to re-engineer the college almost to have a group
of intermediaries inside the college. They are not teachers, they
are not personnel officers. I think we have been lucky that the
Employment Service has been as flexible as they have been. You
really do need to walk all the way with them. Knowing there is
a job at the end, a real job, not just a work opportunity or possibility,
has made an enormous difference to retention rates. You have to
deal with New Deal in a different way.
34. Just to clarify a couple of points on the
detail of that, it is 72 per cent who start the FTET option go
all the way through and reach the end at Lewisham?
(Ms Silver) Yes.
35. And the 16 weeks' internship, who pays for
(Ms Silver) The employer does in a kind of roundabout
way. They are our staff and we put them forward as our staff.
We then charge employers a kind of agency placement rate. It is
all legitimate, we have permission from the Government to do that.
(Mr Gibson) Let us clarify that point.
(Ms Silver) I claim immunity.
36. This is a special scheme that you have got
that is not available elsewhere?
(Ms Silver) It is an experiment that we have been
involved in and we have tried to do that. Our placement rate for
others, not on the experimental part of it, is high as well simply
because of the Employment Service action team support.
(Mr Gibson) If you look at the case studies from colleges
I think you will find that a number of them talk about ESF extra
funding that they have used to build up the sort of provision
that Ruth is outlining.
37. Can I be clear, the 72 per cent at Lewisham
is comparable to the 20 per cent national figure?
(Ms Silver) No, the 40 per cent is comparable.
Mr Twigg: If it is averaging 20 and you have
got 40, some places must be doing a lot worse.
38. Finally on the general point, the Lewisham
example is impressive but across the piece we have this issue
that overall New Deal FTET people are not completing. The argumentI
have heard this from the Government sideis about whether
the low completion rate is because people are finding jobs, and
therefore the 10 or 12 weeks or whatever they did on the FTET
course was money well spent because it made them more job-ready,
and it is just because they found a job quicker as opposed to
the fact they are dropping out because the option was not the
right option, for whatever reason, or they were incapable of completing
it. I do not know if you have a general feel as to which of these
two pictures is the case. Whether the vast majority80 per
centare leaving simply because they have found jobs and
it is the buoyant labour market and everything is okay really
or whether there is a problem about placements and how people
are getting onto the options.
(Mr Gibson) Can I say two things. The entry data that
we have for people coming onto the courses shows that 31 per cent
of them have no qualifications whatever and 22 per cent of them
are at foundation level. If you add on top of that all the various
different social problems (which in my view you were rightly emphasising
and focusing on because that is absolutely critical) it has to
be remembered that is the starting point. What we should measure
from is that starting point to where people achieve. If I can
use that as an intro, if I may. I do not feel I can give you an
absolute answer to that question. I believe it is both. I believe
there is a lot more that can be done. I think the Secretary of
State himself talked about wanting more flexibility. If somebody
was nearly there but the money or time ran out and we could negotiate
an extra month, if somebody needed an extra month before they
went into employment and that would help them have sustainable
employment, then we ought to be able to try to negotiate that.
We are not saying it is all perfect and it is all alright, we
are not saying that. What we are saying is that it has been a
major step forward and we would be more than happy to work on
increasing the flexibility and concentrating more on the individual
in the way Ruth said. I think we need to re-examine and develop
our relationship with employers. That is a challenge to all of
us collectively. Also we must not under-estimate the amount of
time and effortand I believe worthwhile effortthat
is necessary where people have got a very low level of attainment
and complex disadvantages as well. That does take time.
(Ms Silver) I taught New Dealers when they first came
to Lewisham and it is a long time since I have taught people who
are quite so needy. I was extremely proud that they came back
the second week. I felt that was a real achievement because it
is really hard to come back in for a second week.
39. With this 72 per cent that you mentioned,
we are not absolutely clear what it is. Is it 72 per cent completing
(Ms Silver) That is our retention profile.