Are your basic skills what they should be?
Free courses for adults
The children could be heard this week playing in the nearby school playground and shops are full of toasters, irons and cheap duvets for students off to university
But what about adult skills, the skills you need for the current job market, and this does not mean just IT skills. Increasingly managers of businesses say that they receive CV’s from people who cannot spell correctly, while adult education has of the education budgets in national and local government had the biggest cuts.
Corbyn’s proposal for a “lifelong learning service” that runs “from cradle to grave,” could be exactly what’s needed to answer the skills shortage at a time of slashing funds for vocational training. The Adult Skills Budget, which covers Further Education courses for those 19-years-old and over, has been cut by 40 per cent since 2010, and is due to reduce further between 2015 and 2016. Earlier this year, the Association of Colleges predicted that if cuts continued at the same rate, FE courses could be completely eradicated by 2020.
This week saw the world marking International Literacy Day, while the reality is that for various reasons, undiagnosed dyslexia perhaps, a child labelled as naughty and who doesn’t pay attention in school ends up with pills to calm him or her down and a diagnosis of ADHD. Many older job hunters who left school at the earliest opportunity and went into manual work, now finding themselves not physically fit enough to continue but still having to work, may not have the literacy skills for the current job market ….they have got through their working life up until now without them but finding themselves as I did, unable for health reasons to continue in a job, they have not got the skills for a job they can do, and no free training is available.
During the current Labour Party leadership and London Mayoral Candidate Elections it has been those candidates who recognise the value of and voiced a commitment to education for all ages who caught my eye, as did Jeremy Corbyn in saying that there needs to be training for adults in the skills that they need, and David Lammy who throughout his bid to become Labour candidate for London Mayor spoke of the benefits his mother gained from night school. Jeremy Corbyn recognises that what we need is a ‘lifelong learning service ‘He has pledged to provide more money for adult learning, paid for by raising money by increasing the corporation tax by 2 per cent.
In 2020 we should start by reversing the cuts to the adult skills budget and expand it into a lifelong learning service by adding 2% to corporation tax (still comfortably the lowest in the G7). This funding would be hypothecated to expand adult learning into a lifelong learning education resource. The extra tax revenues brought by a high skill, high productivity and high pay economy will fund further expansion.
A National Education Service will give working age people access throughout their lives to learn new skills or to re-train. It should also work with Jobcentre Plus to offer claimants opportunities to improve their skills, rather than face the carousel of workfare placements, sanctions and despair. We need a return to ambitious joined-up government.
It is often thought that illiteracy is simply put as an inability to read and write, but in fact there is more to it than this. It means being unable to read and write at a level allowing a person to function at a certain level in society, to be able to fully take part in society and society has changed. Today you need to be able to do a lot more than just sign your name, which years ago used to often enable you to get by. Even claiming many welfare benefits means lengthy reading and filling in of forms and job hunting is largely done on the internet with a written CV ready to upload to jobs that are advertised on internet job boards.
Some societies consider what literacy is differently to others. The so very highly internet driven developed world now consider that you must have computer skills to be fully literate , well, it certainly does help , as indeed it does to have at least basic numeracy and be able to add up and subtract . Scotland, defines literacy as: “The ability to read and write and use numeracy, to handle information, to express ideas and opinions, to make decisions and solve problems, as family members, workers, citizens and lifelong learners.”
Studies have shown that investment in literacy, other basic skills and training courses, along with degrees for those for whom they are suitable, pays off for a country’s economy. Educated and trained people stay in work longer, often earn more and so pay more taxes and are fitter and healthier, therefore costing less to the health service.
I am increasingly wondering also, does education help to prevent wars and uprisings? It surely must help a nation if its people can communicate with and understand each other. It is no coincidence that extreme Islamic factors do not want education for all… especially women. In areas where they have gained control, girls have often been banned from going to school, as we see from the story of Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani winner of The Nobel Peace Prize, shot by The Taliban in her home town, because she went to school.
In Iraq and other Middle Eastern nations where extreme Islamic groups hold power, and also throughout history in Europe too , academics rather than being seen as an asset to their country are often at best banned from working , eg teaching , hounded out of the country … and at worst killed . An eye opening insight into this can be found by reading the story of Iraqi Academic May Witwit in her book Talking About Jane Austen in Baghdad . Is it coincidence that illiteracy is highest among countries such as the Arab regions, South Asia and Sub-Sahara Africa? , while being much lower in developed countries.
However, the definition of illiteracy has changed and moved on and the skills needed to be literate in the 21st century and to be employable in an age where we have to adapt our skill-set to enable us to work into much later life and often with limitations from health conditions while we do so mean that indeed we need a lifelong learning service.
For courses that are free for many in the UK, go to Learn Direct and Vision2learn . Also some helpful links may be found from my previous articles on free online courses. , many of these are available worldwide….Don’t get left behind.