Submission from Portia
The decision will have negative impact in terms
of exclusion from valuable re-training opportunities of the following
Women (who did attain a university
degree in the past) requiring retraining at higher skills level
in order to be able to compete effectively in the labour market
after a career break.
Experienced mature and older people
who wish to engage in lifelong learning for socio-economic reasons.
Women and men in early and mid-careers
who wish to change career direction to areas more in line with
the demands of a knowledge-based economy and a digital future.
Evidence of demand:
Professor Daphne Jackson, who set up in 1985
the first (and still the only) retraining initiative to help women
scientists return to research after a career break summarised
the issue of women returners most succinctly by saying "Imagine
a society that would allow Marie Curie to stack shelves in a supermarket
simply because she took a career break for family reasons".
The Daphne Jackson Trust has dealt with over 2000 inquiries since
then and has helped over 150 women to retrain and become economically
active again through its fellowship scheme. There should be support
available for others, which do not meet the criteria of the scheme,
The UK Resource Centre for Women in SET, set
up in 2005 in collaboration with the Open University (and European
funding) a course to help women returners with a background in
SET to re-establish their career directions and aspirations. This
course attracted over 100 women each time it was advertised.
Equalitec, which targets women and opportunities
in Information Technology, Electronics and Communications, has
with the assistance of European funding identified a variety of
pathways from retraining to employment. In areas of emerging importance,
such as e-security, e-Health, Internet Computing, Sustainable
Engineering, the best and the most cost-effective retraining was
found at higher education institutions. This gives individuals
up-to-date knowledge and skills and a recognised professional
Research by Cambridge University reported in
2005 that between 1997 and 2001 nearly 50,000 women IT professionals
were lost from the IT labour market. Without suitable retraining,
they will never come back.
Many girls avoid choosing science or engineering
subject at GCSE or Advanced school level but have the required
aptitudes for these subjects. They should be encouraged and supported
in changing their career direction later in life to take advantage
of the opportunities created by technology-driven transformations.
This is one way that more women can be brought into the industry.
"Women are also severely under-represented
in ITEC jobs in all countries and their participation in recent
years has been decreasing across the whole sample. In the UK in
2000 only 13% of women were working in ITEC jobs across the whole
economy, down from 16% in 1999". (Women & Equality Unit,
2. TIMING OF
The timing and implementation contradicts the
growing importance of knowledge based industries, which employ
half of the UK workforce (ESRC, Knowledge Economy in the UK Fact
The August 2006 issue of Computer Weekly
pointed out some stark realities of the UK IT labour market,
based on research conducted by e-Skills UK:
"The outsourcing of IT jobs overseas appears
to be having a major impact on the employment market in the UK".
"Jobs for lower-paid professions such as
helpdesk and operations staff are in decline, with many companies
finding it cheaper to outsource day-to-day operations to the developing
world in India and the Far East".
"We are finding that the number of higher-end
jobs is increasing".
"Individuals need to ensure that the training
and experience they get benefits future career prospects, rather
than merely providing a short term fix".
"Forty per cent of business requirements
are for skills at advanced levels. The challenge intensifies when
you consider that, with the continued gender imbalance in the
IT workforce, just one in five technology workers is female".
"The skills required are constantly increasing
in depth and breadth. Many entry-level jobs are now being sourced
from abroad, and the growth in the UK is predominantly in high-level
roles, which demand sophisticated skills in business, client relationship
and project management, alongside technical competencies".
Furthermore, in contrast to the Government's
current strategy for skills, which targets lower level skills
up to NVQ 2, the European Commission, and in particular the Information
Society and Media Directorate sees higher skills, level 5 and
above, as critical to the future of European industry (presented
by Nancy Pascal at the Knowledge and Skills for a Digital Future
Conference at the Institution of Engineering and Technology, September
2007). The following quote helps to summarises this position:
The IT, telecommunications and audiovisual industries
"are converging with century-old barriers disappearing between
content and service, and between telephone and TV. New opportunities
in areas as diverse as culture and healthcare can flourish in
this rapidly changing environment. The rules of the game have
certainly changed when you can make a film and distribute it worldwide
with your mobile phone, or when super-powerful `Grid' computing
allows medical researchers to improve drug design".
Viviane Reding, European Commissioner for Information
Society and Media
3. THE IMPACT
There will be negative impact on the take up
of courses by mothers returning to work and older people seeking
new employment opportunities, who have less disposable income
and greater financial commitments than young people participating
in higher education for the first time.
The following quotes summarise the position
of mothers returning to work.
"43% women who have children take a voluntary
career break. Only 74% of those who want to rejoin the ranks of
the employed manage to do so, and among these only 40% manage
to return to full time, professional jobs".
(Sylvia Ann Hewlett & Carolyn Buck Luce,
Off-Ramps and On-Ramps,
Harvard Business Review,
"Mothers face greater discrimination in finding
a job than disabled people, Asian women and the elderly . . .
women returning to work after starting a family face the highest
`personal employment penalty' of any group in societythey
are around 40% less likely than the average white, able-bodied
man to be offered a post".
(Richard Berthoud & Morten Blekesaune, Persistent
Institute for Social & Economic Research,
Essex University, 2007)
For older people, the Guardian reported
in May 2006 that the number of people signing up for further education
colleges has plummeted following increases in fees and the reduction
in courses. Between October 2004 and 2005, the number of over
60s dropped by 25%, the number of 55-59-year-olds dropped by 18.4%,
and 45-49-year-olds declined by 16%.