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Factors affecting participation in Lifelong Learning

As individuals are encouraged to take more responsibility for their own learning, will this further disadvantage those who, for whatever reason, do not? How far should engagement in learning be left to individual choice? Can guidance play a part in overcoming barriers to learning?

Guidance and inclusion in lifelong learning

Pamela Clayton (2000) produced the following summary of the issues linked to 'Vocational Guidance and Inclusion in Lifelong Learning.' The argument of this paper is that neither lifelong learning in the narrow sense of vocational learning nor adult vocational guidance and counselling is a panacea for social exclusion. Nevertheless, for individuals who are socially excluded or at risk of being so, and for whom access to lifelong learning is likely to bring benefits, holistic, impartial, client-centred guidance is extremely important in helping people make the best choice for their circumstances and skills.

Guidance can also assist in lowering the dispositional barriers that prevent people from accessing lifelong learning. Although guidance services have no power to dismantle the far more important institutional and situational barriers, they can work actively with employers and learning providers to change systems which deter potential learners. Without, however, help and support from the state to overcome both institutional and situational barriers, and stable, adequate funding, the role of guidance is limited.

The focus here is solely on people who are socially excluded or at risk of such exclusion:

Information alone is of limited use.
Adult vocational guidance and counselling involves much more than the provision of information. It teaches the skills to make choices. It is holistic, impartial and client-centred.
It is not the task of guidance to steer every individual towards lifelong learning. Lifelong learning in the narrow sense of vocational learning is not always suitable. Access to learning is not always the first priority, and formal education does not always produce an improvement in individual economic situation.
For the few people from groups at risk of social exclusion who do enter degree courses, guidance on choosing the course most suitable to their needs and learning preferences is essential in order to minimise the risk for individuals of investing time, money and self-esteem in a learning project which may not bring about desirable outcomes.
People rarely 'exclude themselves' and although dispositional barriers prevent many people from accessing learning opportunities, institutional and situational barriers also require dismantling.
The task of guidance is to address dispositional barriers and assist people who would be helped by lifelong learning to overcome them.
Providers of guidance can provide feedback to learning providers on institutional barriers to access and work with them to bring about change.
Without support from the state such feedback will have a limited impact.
Providers of guidance can work with employers in order to facilitate access to guidance for low-paid workers.
It is the state which must persuade employers to distribute training and support for vocational education more equitably among their employees.
Guidance services are potentially at the interface between individuals and the providers of lifelong learning.
For guidance to realise this potential, services need to engage in active networking and collaboration with a wide range of groups, agencies and organisations.
Guidance services need stable, adequate funding in order to form such partnerships, carry out ongoing staff training, finance evaluation and operate outreach activities.

Good practice should be disseminated and mainstreamed, not disappear with the project funding.

The role of careers guidance provision in transitions to HE in Scotland

Determinants of course choice and successful transition for applicants to higher education in Scotland

Janet Moffet & Graham Allan, University of Paisley 2004

Abstract

With the increased focus of career guidance work on the socially excluded or hard to help there is a concern that those young people in schools who are intending to apply for a place in higher education will not have the same access to careers advice and guidance to assist with their decision-making. The context for this is explored, including the influence of recent government policies in both England and Scotland. This study then reviews some relevant literature on course choice, success in HE, satisfaction with decisions, clearing, attrition, and drop-out to identify the factors that influence both choice and success and the suggested information and guidance needs of this group. The attributes of applicants who are most in need of information or guidance are identified. In light of the literature review the discussion focuses on the implications for careers education and guidance in schools and work with S5 and S6 pupils in Scotland (years 12 and 13) who are contemplating applying to higher education.

Careers Guidance and Higher Education

Some practitioners and others interested in HE participated in a wide ranging discussion based on a series of questions on the current position of careers advisory services in higher education. The discussion raised issues such as:

how are careers services in HEIs coping with the increased number of students and the widening participation agenda,
are careers services under pressure to come up with 'good' destination statistics,
do careers services promote 'their' students over those of another institution or is there a community of careers services? Is employer sponsorship a 'good thing'?
Topics discussed included:

1) Tuition fees and the possible need to link financial and career planning:

Will students acting as 'consumers' make new sets of demands on HEIs?
Will fees act as another barrier to participation in learning for some prospective students?
There is a tension inherent in all guidance practice - should the focus be on working exclusively with individual clients or working with systems? Seems like there are three possibilities. Practitioners could:

Work with clients to overcome difficulties created by the policy change and/or help them cope with debt, etc.
Work to change the structures/systems creating the difficulty (e.g. work through professional bodies which could lobby for change);
Do both!
If we focus exclusively on work with the individual, we can be criticised for ignoring the realities faced by clients. If we work with systems, we can be criticised for being inappropriately 'political'.

I agree that practitioners should:

continue to help clients, as well as
developing strategies to influence policy change.
However, practical issues emerge:

To what extent, realistically, can guidance workers advise clients (and their parents) on finance? Professional indemnity for guidance workers probably does not extend to cover this area of advice.
Who else can clients be referred to for financial advice?
What are the training issues in this area for guidance workers?
How meaningful is financial advice to the average young adult without previous educational input on this topic?
How can LMI contribute to the financial advice given: for example, what are the chances of getting a salary that will permit the repayment of loans over a given period?
As well as lobbying for change, the effects of new policy measures could usefully be brought to the attention to policy makers; guidance workers could be a valuable source of information, if a feedback mechanism were available, to inform policy makers about the real & perceived obstacles that deter clients from entering HE. Currently IAG Partnerships are invited to gather "success stories" (client case studies). Policy makers might actually learn more from some "failure stories"?
2. Role of higher education careers services in widening participation to HE

Careers Services in higher education institutions are a diverse box of tricks:
Some enjoy the luxury of high status, recognition of their role in both the undergraduate experience and in securing positive destinations on graduation;
Others find themselves under-resourced squashed between the academic equivalent of the rubbish bins and the 'goods out' area of the institution.
From other parts of the guidance sector, practitioners look wistfully across and imagine a different, better world within higher education careers services. There, the fantasy goes, one-to-one guidance interactions are still valued.
On the other hand, worn down higher education careers advisers lament the erosion of longer interviews and the increasing emphasis on short sharp shock tactics manifest in a treadmill of quick queries and information giving exercises - both an inevitable response to the increased pressure of more students and proportionately fewer resources. The only outcome valued by the institution is the annual first destination survey (recently renamed to something else I know not what).
3. Further questions:

Why have careers services in HEIs become an important performance indicator for some institutions?
How will careers services in HEIs cope with the increased numbers of students as a result of widening participation?
If students have to pay for their degrees, will they have different and/or greater expectations of their career services – perhaps to act more as placement offices and less as guidance providers?
What is the typical ratio of advisers to students in HEIs.
How significant are Careers Services in influencing the destination of graduates within HEIs?
To what extent are Careers Services in Higher Education Institutions pressurised to come up with 'good statistics' on destinations, if they are, does this compromise the value of that data?
Are destinations based on where graduates are 6 months post graduation of any value or not? What is the rationale by which this information is collected and can anyone give the current requirements?
Careers Services in HE are perceived in some quarters as the last vanguard for those who are committed to giving guidance – is this luxury imagined or real?
Why should HEIs value and resource their careers services?
Is there a role for 'bought in' expertise – e.g. for HEIs to subscribe to graduate prospects services rather than keeping it all in-house?
How can you judge the effectiveness of an HE Careers Service?
Is there a community of higher education careers services, or do they find themselves in competition with one another – trying to attract the most prestigious employers? (what about mutual aid – a service which seems to be eroding).
How should we view those services that proactively seek employer sponsorship to subsidise their broader activities? Is this sensible pragmatism in the interests of the student population, or a regretable erosion of impartiality?
4. Some replies:

Well to answer the simple one - First Destination Survey (FDS) is being replaced with DLHE - Destination of Leavers from Higher Education Institutions. You can find out more about this new system from the HESA website: the statistics are now produced on a CD-ROM. The new system was negotiated over several years and AGCAS has been involved in this process. The new system is hugely labour intensive.
What a lot of valuable questions! I will try to have a go:
Careers services are involved in performance management because they are central to the collation of statistics about students' employment trajectories. However, they have been seen as part of quality management in a much broader sense for a long time (DfES, 2003, Careers Education and Guidance in England: A Nationa Framework ).
Coping with numbers? - with difficulty I would guess - the increase in student numbers has not been coupled with commensurate increase in resource levels in respect of teaching staff, support staff or guidance professionals. In a little over a decade the university populations have doubled but staffing has not - we probably need to be able to document this more adequately - but I would have a look at the Universities UK website - or one of the teaching unions such as the UCU for more info to begin with.
I am less sure that paying for the degree will alter this - many students see CAS as placement services anyway! However, there is a burgeoning sense that having to pay for one's degree is likely to lead to increasing sense of being a consumer (rather than a student) with particularly parents (or funding bodies) asking tough questions about what students actually get for their money.
Don't know.
Don't know well enough and we should do. There is research in this area that indicates that parents and peers are very influential and that work experiences play a considerable role. An issue for careers advisory services appears to be reaching the (large sometimes) numbers of students who do not use them at all.
I don't think the stats can be compromised - the use made of the data however is a different matter - and universities will doubtless use good news stories to advantage.
There is some research about grauates' employment trajectories seven years on after graduation - funded in part by HECSU - by Kate Purcell and Peter Elias (2004).
Last vanguard of guidance - maybe - but from whose perspective?
Some do - some don't - you're working with raw prejudice here! - they all should of course!
You don't have to buy in Graduate Prospects - everyone may have it - so this is not a mutually exclusive matter.
I think AGCAS probably fulfils this 'community-stimulating' role - I feel there is more cooperation than competition (but I may not be close enough to know) - in some areas cooperation is more evident than others - e.g. Yorkshire - parts of the Midlands and the South West - where CAS have grouped together to jointly undertake projects.
Now there's the question!
Should careers services in Higher Education Institutions proactively seek employer sponsorship in order to fund their services for students? I would answer 'yes' on the purely pragmatic basis that most HE career services are so poorly funded that any increase in funds has to be of benefit to students! However I have two main concerns. First, there are real dangers when a client's perception of impartiality are influenced by overt sponsorship etc etc - a well rehearsed argument. Secondly, with the current prevalence of 'targeting' (large employers only seeking graduates from a limited number of, generally prestigious, institutions) sponsorship can polarise even further the services offered by different institutions. A targeted university is in a good bargaining position with considerable opportunities to obtain sponsorship in terms of actual cash, equipment, contribution to workshops, fairs etc, seconded employees, etc. A non-targeted university will struggle to get information and vacancies from employers and will rarely be able to gain any form of sponsorship.
Other responses on employer sponsorship:

It's really hard to come to a definite answer about this. It is true that employer sponsorship is often essential to fund the activities of HE Careers Services. However, I do wonder if pursuit of external funding in a proactive way can be self defeating for a range of reasons:

It takes the eye of the ball. If HE institutions can be made to see the benefits that their careers services deliver, then perhaps they would be more willing to fund them appropriately. By looking externally for funding, HE providers are let off the hook. It's a bit like the argument around charitable giving in my view. There are some things that should be funded for the collective good, and this being so, it should not be dependent on the whim of those who are in a position to give. Once HECSs become dependent on that source of income, what happens if there is a down-turn and employers no longer queue up to court previously popular institutions?
There is a contradiction - those employers most able to sponsor events are not representative of the range of opportunities of interest to graduates and this 'skews' the message passed on to undergraduates.
The disproportionate weighting of the major graduate recruiters at best irritates, and at worst alienates, large numbers of students who have their prejudices confirmed that the careers services is firstly, about getting them a job, and secondly about getting them a job as an accountant. Some resent what they perceive as an apparent apathy among careers services in getting e.g. representatives from NGOs, the Arts or whatever. Its hard to counteract this perception when you are sitting under a banner for a well known chartered accountants, giving out a careers service brochure with a corporate logo emblazened on it.
If we believe that careers guidance is partly about helping people to identify and achieve their own goals and that is often most useful for those who lack confidence, or have other barriers, then it might be argued that those who most need the support of their careers services are least well catered for. The student who hangs on in there, but obtains a pass degree in philosophy, is frankly unlikely to be the person the main graduate recruiters is interested in - although arguably that individual may have more to gain from the careers services on offer than the graduate with a 2:1 in Law who will probably end up with a clutch of job offers irrespective of any support from the same careers service.
A great deal of time and resources are used to generate employer interest and sponsorship, the question is, would that time be better spent trying to cater for the less advantaged, less focussed and less motivated graduate, rather than having ever bigger and better career fairs. These may bring prestige to the institution, but do they serve those users most in need of the careers service. (I'm conveniently ignoring the issues around whether these activities generate a profit - personally I'm not convinced they do, because time spent on organising events is not always costed in).
I also wonder about the ethics of a system which means that the prestigious HE institutions work hard on behalf of 'their students' arguably at the expense of students at other prestigious neighbouring HEIs. This may be advantageous for their own graduates, but it is not in keeping with the idea that careers guidance should be about something more than giving individuals a competitive advantage whilst the vast majority remain losers in an inequitable system. It concerns me that careers services find themselves in competition with those at other institutions, when perhaps a collaborative approach would be more advantageous.
Ultimately lets face it, businesses don't sponsor careers service activities because they laud the values they represent. They want a financial return and that means access to what they perceive to be the most talented (often very narrowly defined) graduates.

So, rather unhelpfully, I don't know! I doubt employer sponsorship will go away, and undoubtedly some students benefit from it, and some institutions careers services absolutely depend on it - but that doesn't mean it should be uncritically accepted.

Are graduates from different higher educational institutions valued differently by employers?

1) You can spot a Sussex or an Oxbridge student at a hundred paces, all universities produce distinctive graduates that reflect the institutional culture and ethos. Recently, talked to a new academic at Sussex (ex Warwick) who brought up this very point. He could not believe how non-vocational the Sussex students were.

I suppose this supports the 'Community Interaction' theories of career development put forward by Law. The power not only of the peer group but of the culture of the educational establishment. In the case of Sussex, there was a firm belief in the purity of 'learning to learn'. The university was set up without subject boundaries. Teaching was arranged in groupings that cut across traditional subjects. In a way, this was rather like the modern primary school teaching where you would study a topic and in doing so would do a bit of English, maths, science, drama etc . Lectures were not a major feature - mainly seminar work and library research.

As you can imagine this has sat more and more uncomfortably with the outside world. QAA visits were tough! The increasing emphasis on learning outcomes, credit transfer, together with the requirements of professional bodies (e.g. British Psychological Society) for degrees to cover a 'body of knowledge' for accreditation, have all made this position untenable. So this academic year the whole structure has been changed to a more traditional model. It will be very interesting to see how this will affect the culture and whether a more vocational attitude will start to be developed.

2) This is a really interesting example.......especially the comparison with Warwick. Having gone through various Quality Assurance visitations in higher education, I would have thought that this process is, inevitably, a powerful mechanism for drawing all universities into 'line'. Except a privileged few who seem to be sufficiently powerful to 'buck the trend'.

Gender and lifelong learning - unable to find



Ethnicity and lifelong learning

Achievement rates vary according to ethnic group and gender. Ethnicity represents a barrier to lifelong learning at a number of level, as illustrated by the following extracts from the report by David Owen, Anne Green, Jane Pitcher and Malcolm Maguire for DfEE (2000) on Minority ethnic participation in education, training and the labour market. Statistics on the educational achievement of ethnic minority groups reveal some striking trends.

Sub-group variations in participation in learning

Ethnic groups vary in their propensity to participate in learning activities.
Targets and attainment levels

People of working age from minority ethnic groups as a whole have slightly higher attainment rates than white people at both the top and bottom of the qualification range: NVQ Level 5 and below NVQ Level 2. However, they have lower attainment rates at NVQ levels 2,3 and 4.
While overall qualification attainment by people from minority ethnic groups as a whole appears to match that of white people, there are distinct differences between minority ethnic groups, with the Pakistani/Bangladeshi group having significantly lower proportions attaining qualifications.
Representation of minority ethnic groups in higher education

Overall, minority ethnic groups are comparatively well-represented in higher education. There is however, variation in the levels of participation amongst ethnic groups, and evidence of underparticipation particularly amongst Bangladeshi women, when compared to the participation rates of Bangladeshi men.
Age profile of the student population and qualifications on entry

Black students are more likely than other groups to be mature students, whereas South Asian students are significantly younger than other groups.
Black undergraduates are more likely to have ‘non-standard’ entry qualifications than other ethnic groups.
Type of higher education institution, mode and subject of study

Black and South Asian students are particularly concentrated in the post-1992 ‘new’ universities, although South Asian students are also relatively well-represented in older universities. Chinese and Other-Asian students are particularly well-represented in old universities.
Black students are significantly more likely than other groups to study part-time, which may be one of the reasons for their concentration in ‘new’ universities, where part-time study is more prevalent.
Black-African, Chinese and ‘Other’ men are more likely than other groups to study full-time for postgraduate qualifications.
Computing science is a popular choice of undergraduate degree for men from minority ethnic groups, particularly those of Pakistani and Indian origin. Subjects allied to medicine are popular for women, particularly Black-African, Black-Caribbean and White women.
Labour market participation

The percentage of the population of working age economically active is higher for white people than for minority ethnic groups.
Black-Caribbean people display higher rates of economic activity than people from other minority ethnic groups. Pakistani and Bangladeshi women display extremely low economic activity rates.
Economic activity rates are higher for men than women. In most ethnic groups, the economic activity rate for married women is higher than that for women who are not married.
Economic activity rates are higher for people aged 25 to 44 than for younger and older people. Differences in participation rates between ethnic groups are least in this age group.
Employment, unemployment and earnings

In general, men from minority ethnic groups are more likely to work in the service sector than white men. Bangladeshi and Chinese men in work are still highly concentrated in the distribution sector (which includes restaurants). Public sector services are a particularly important source of work for women from minority ethnic groups.
Men from minority ethnic groups as a whole are less likely than white men to be in high status or skilled manual occupations, and are more likely to be semi-skilled manual workers. However, a higher than average percentage of Indian, Chinese, Other-Asian men are managers and administrators or professionals (Black-African men are also more likely than average to be in professional and associate professional occupations).
The percentage in self-employment is highest for men from the Pakistani ethnic groups, and also higher than average for Indian, Chinese and Other-Asian men, but lower than average for men from Black ethnic groups.
Minority unemployment rates are usually at least twice as high as those for white people, and highest for Bangladeshi, Pakistani and Black-African people. However, Indian and Chinese people tend to experience relatively low unemployment rates.
Male earnings are highest for the white and lowest for the Bangladeshi ethnic group. Indian men earn more than Black men. Men from all ethnic groups have higher hourly wage rates in London than elsewhere. White women earn more than women from minority ethnic groups in London, but outside London, women from the Chinese and Other ethnic groups have the highest earnings. South Asian women earn less than Black women.
Participation in work-based training

There has been an overall decline in the numbers participating on work-based training for adults (WBTA) in recent years, but a rise in the proportion of leavers going directly into jobs.
Participants from minority ethnic groups tend to be concentrated in London and the West Midlands – reflecting the uneven regional distribution of minority ethnic groups in the population as a whole.
The experience of ethnic minorities on work-related training

Both adults and young people from minority ethnic groups are less likely to achieve a 'positive outcome' (notably entry into paid employment) after participation in a work-based training programme than their white counterparts.
The Black group experiences particular disadvantage in entering employment.
The Asian group fares least well in terms of qualification attainment. However the gap is narrowing in 1998/99 similar proportions of Asian and White trainees left to go into a job.
Non-white young people are less likely than their white peers to enter higher status training programmes such as Modern Apprenticeships.
In subjective terms European Social Fund (ESF) programme participants from minority ethnic groups rated their experience of ESF-funded activities more highly than white participants, with projects playing an important role in building confidence.
Ethnic Minorities and the Labour Market

According to a Cabinet Office Report on Ethnic Minorities and the Labour Market (2003): 'members of some ethnic minority groups, such as Pakistanis, Black Caribbeans and Bangladeshis, have disproportionately poor skills and few qualifications. Moreover, there is overwhelming evidence that Black Caribbean and Pakistani groups are failing to close the gap between their educational attainment levels in schools and the White average' (2003: p51).

Highest qualification: ethnic group & gender

According to National Statistics information (2002) in 2001/02 people from some minority ethnic groups in the United Kingdom were more likely to have degrees (or equivalent) than White people. Most likely to have degrees were:

Chinese people,
Indians,
Black Africans and
Other Asians.
Despite some ethnic groups being more likely than the White population to have a degree, they were also more likely to have no qualifications at all. In particular Pakistanis and Bangladeshis were most likely to be unqualified. Nearly half (48 per cent) of Bangladeshi women and 40 per cent of Bangladeshi men had no qualifications. Among Pakistanis, 40 per cent of women and 27 per cent of men had no qualifications.

References:

Cabinet Office (2003) Ethnic Minorities and the Labour Market: Final Report, London: Strategy Unit.
National Statistics (2002) Education - Ethnicity - Indian pupils have best GCSE results, On-line Information Nugget, published 12th December 2002.

A Review of Black and Minority Ethnic Participation in Higher Education: A Summary Report for Conference, 21 June 2006

Age and lifelong learning

Age and lifelong learning

The discussion highlights issues such as the lack of independent provision for this age group and low level of funding in adult services overall. It considers the low level of take-up of services from this group and looks at the barriers to employment for this group including compulsory retirement and the loss of state benefit on top of the usual disincentives. It further asks whether legislation would improve the situation. The starting point for the discussion was about how guidance can serve older clients more effectively?

Comment 1:

Guidance provision for older clients is patchy, though an independent evaluation indicates that where it exists in North London, services are not apparently attracting very many over 50s. What are the reasons for the lack of take up of free services by this age group? Appendix 1

Comment 2:

Some clues about why 50+ clients don't use guidance (and want to) are contained in the Challenging Age national report: 'Third Age IAG provision needs to be coherent, welcoming and properly targeted if it is to be genuinely effective. Many 45+ are reassured by a mix of ages on reception and ohter frontline positions and by the availability of older staff.....there are important resource issues here. Currently such provision, outside economic and social priority areas such as Sunderland, tends to be the exception rather than the rule and is funded from a number of resources that are often short term.' (Challenging Age: Executive Summary).

Comment 3:

Economics and funding regimes largely influence guidance provision and even the quality of service (not sure how helpful an 'advice episode' of 20 minutes is for the average adult seeking work).

Comment 4:

This goes much deeper that the age of guidance staff and agree that policy has yet to address the real issues. Issues that are relevant:

In some instances when people are made redundant (particularly in the private sector) outplacement services are purchased by the down sizing company to assist people to find alternative work. These commercial services often involve a series of one to one consultations and are costed accordingly.
Despite the acceptance of the value of in-depth support services for the unemployed by the private sector, DfES asserts that there is as yet no evidence of the economic benefits of guidance.
Local research shows that "Clients accessing guidance services were much more likely than those accessing advice service to receive help and advice about career options and changing career." And the figures suggest that soft and hard outcomes are better for clients seen as part of a particular project that offers sustained guidance to clients facing multiple barriers, who have more support than regular IAG clients.
Employment Services Policy and practice has resulted in claimants being taken off JSA and placed on Incapacity Benefits. This is a significant contributory factor in the estimates of the economically inactive in the Upper Lea Valley Region (Waltham Forest, Enfield and Haringey). The indications are that in total as many as one in four people are economically inactive. A proportion of this group will be 50+.
Local research findings (2003) show that clients participating in the survey showed good progression into learning or work. 56% of IAG clients had taken up new learning since their advice or guidance session and over 80% of these said the session had influenced their decision to take up this learning. Overall, the ratings given to the service by clients were very high and compare favourably with similar evaluation exercises carried out by Shared Intelligence for other IAG partnerships. Ratings of advisors were particularly positive, with 90% of IAG and 100% of CFA clients rating their advisors good or very good. The vast majority of clients would recommend services to others.
Marketing issues: plans include national branding this will assist the over 50s to understand the "offer"; also publication of DfES & DWP labour market information to help all job seekers.
Fragmentations of local serivces: there is no national web site to enable people to find local services unless they ring happen to ring the learndirect number.
Locally marketing materials are age neutral. In future messages to encourage the over 50s will be included.
Issues faced by Third Age job seekers:

Discrimination by employers. Many employers practice age discrimination. This is of course not illegal. The public sector is a major employer nationally and in some instances practices compulsory retirement at 60 eg The Learning and Skills Council. Consequently this sector is unlikely to view those in their mid 50s favourably.
The Benefits Trap – the unemployed in London face the country’s highest accommodation costs so it may not pay them to find work.
Personal issues for those 50+. Individuals may suffer from any combination of poor skills; poor previous experiences of education and training; lack of awareness of Labour Market Opportunities; few job seeking skills; no experience of seeking help to overcome problems; lack of funding for retraining etc
The complexity of the individual situation requires an individually tailored service.
Comment 5:

A research report published by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation draws together the findings from 12 individual research projects and is published in association with The Policy Press, in the 'Transitions after 50' series. 'Crossroads after 50' reviews evidence on a range of aspects of older workers' transitions, including their experiences at work, their reasons for leaving and what they do outside paid work. With critical implications for shaping policy, it presents revealing findings from a previously under-researched field. The report (p. 48) also includes some reference to the impact of anti-age discrimination in employment in 13 countries, and looked in detail at three (Australia, Canada and the United States) where it has been established for some time. It found:

Evidence of the overall effect of such legislation is in most cases weak. However, legislation has had a positive effect on employment rates of older workers in the United States. This is mostly due to them leaving jobs at a later age, rather than to more of them being hired.
Employer behaviour has changed in countries with legislation, to the extent that explicit discrimination, especially in recruitment, has reduced. However, society's and employers' attitudes to older workers do not yet appear to have shifted as much as towards groups such as women and people from minority ethnic communities, where legislative protection has, generally, operated for longer.
Forbidding employers to set mandatory retirement ages may have made them a bit less likely to hire older workers, but there is no evidence that this has been a major disincentive.
It seems to suggest the impact of legislation is quite modest perhaps raising questions about what else should be done by those who have an interest in this area. Although legislation is limited in what it can achieve - (it can't counter attitudes, and some may even experience a backlash from employers or colleagues who resent the interference in their business practices and or employers may try to evade this as other laws in more subtle ways). Nevertheless, it seems to me to be a helpful symbol of what is and is not acceptable practice. However, as guidance practitioners we can't ignore the impact of covert discrimination and it would be naive to think such legislation throws open the doors of opportunity to those seeking them post 50.

So how should we respond? Do we embrace such changes uncritically, or keep the pressure up (how) so that legislation doesn’t just come a fig leaf to cloak the embarrassment of bad practice that continues albeit in more subtle manifestations?

Comment 6:

A 2003 research study into IAG Client Needs for Coherent Information, Advice and Guidance Services on Learning and Work concludes that: 'there is a groundswell of opinion, both from clients and font-line advisers, that what needed is an impartial, accessible and free IAG service for adults' (p.9).

Comment 7:

The effect of National funding on guidance delivery is a key issue for delivery of services. A rough calculation for North London indicates that the funding available to Connexions clients is greater than that available for adults by a factor greater than 100. IAG core funding provides approx £1 per adult ( the same formula funding is applied across England) and Connexions provides about £125 per y/p between 13-19. The lower level of resources available to IAGs is clearly the rationale for the LSC requirement for IAGs to deliver Information and Advice. Advice sessions may be around 20 minutes duration. So some questions arise:

Is 20 minutes really enough time to help adults?
Research available on time needed to support clients?
Why are services to 19 year olds 100 times better funded than those over just over20 and beyond?
Comment 8:

A study undertaken by the National Audit Office (2004) into employment for the over 50s, Welfare to work: Tackling barriers to the employment of older people, reported: 'There is growing concern about trends in the employment of older people. Despite a post-1990s economic environment of skills shortages and low unemployment, participation levels among older men in particular have not increased substantially and remain significantly below the levels of other working age people. Low levels of employment among older people have important implications for the economy overall and the personal and financial well-being of those affected. These issues have been brought into sharp focus by the current crisis in the pensions industry against the background of an ageing population.'

The study focused on the following questions:

What are the barriers to employment faced by older people, at national, regional and local level, and how well are they understood?
What action is the Government taking to help people overcome these barriers, and how successful is it proving?
How well are services coordinated and to what extent are customers aware of, and satisfied with them?


Vulnerable young people and lifelong learning

Reports relating to the implementation of the Education Maintenance Allowance in England:

Sue Maguire, Jo Thompson and Sue Middleton (2006) Young people and the labour market: evidence from the EMA pilots database, London: DfES.
Sue Maguire and Malcolm Maguire (2003) Implementation of the Education Maintenance Allowance Pilots: The Third Year, 2001/2002, London: DfES.
Barbara Dobson et al. (2003) Education Maintenance Allowance Pilots for Vulnerable Young People and Childcare Pilots: Implementation and Reported Impacts in the First Two Years (2000-2001/2001-2002), London: DfES.
Tracey Allen et al. (2003) Education Maintenance Allowance Pilots for Vulnerable Young People and Childcare Pilots: Implementation and Reported Impacts in the First Year, London: DfES.