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Sector Information

Lifelong learning sector is represented by LLUK Sector Skills Council. The sector workforce covers 5 areas:

  • Community learning and development – covers staff working in community based settings. Much activity is voluntary and the area comprises 7 key areas; community based adult learning; community development; community education; development education; family learning; working with parents and youth work.
  • Further education – covers staff involved in the delivery, support and management of learning who work in general further education (FE) colleges, tertiary colleges, 6th form colleges, independent specialist colleges, Scotland’s FE colleges and post-16 learning in Northern Ireland and Wales.
  • Higher education – represents all staff involved in the delivery, support and management of learning and research activities in universities, university colleges and colleges of higher education.
  • Libraries, archives and information services – involves those working in libraries, archives and information services in institutions whose primary purpose is lifelong learning, i.e. public libraries and archives, higher education and further education libraries and archives, and national libraries and archives.
  • Work-based learning – covers staff working for organisations concerned with the delivery of learning and assessment services, which is primarily work based.

Source: LLUK LMI March 2010

There are more than 53,000 employers in the lifelong learning sector across the UK. Approximately 83% of lifelong learning employers are in England, 10% in Scotland, 5% in Wales and 2% are in Northern Ireland. The vast majority of employers are in the community learning and development sub-sector. Further and higher education represent the smallest proportion of the sector in terms of number of organisations, but they consist of a relatively greater proportion of the workforce.

There are approximately 1.2 million people working in the lifelong learning sector across the UK, of which:

  • 30% of the workforce are employed in the community learning and development sub-sector
  • 27% further education
  • 34% higher education
  • 5% libraries, archives and information services
  • 4% work-based learning

Just over 3-quarters of all staff work in England, 12% work in Scotland, 8% in Wales and 4% in Northern Ireland.

Source: LLUK Sector Skills Assessment UK 2010


Future skill needs

  • Skills needs relating to policy analysis, especially amongst managers – for example, being able to understand the shifting policy context and anticipate, plan for, and respond to the implications of the policy changes for organisations
  • Greater emphasis on bid writing and negotiation skills to enable organisations to compete for diminishing funding sources and negotiate to maintain or extend their current funding streams, especially within the current economic climate
  • Skills related to innovation and entrepreneurship to ensure new business development, particularly in global markets
  • The continued support within areas of high unemployment for tutors within CLD, FE Colleges, and work-based learning to support those looking for work to develop employability skills, for example self-management, team working, business and customer awareness, problem solving, communication and literacy, the application of numeracy, and the application of information technology
  • The development of skills to enable research, innovation and product development, such as training and awareness raising, will be needed to address prominent issues such as climate change and sustainability. The Skills for Growth report, produced by BIS (2009) sets out plans in which Colleges will be required to improve and expand courses in areas where there is a demand for trained technicians such as green technologies
  • Increasing demands for skills related to budget planning and financial management to ensure organisations can cope with and adapt to more complex funding procedures and streams
  • Increasing demands for problem solving skills and creativity to ensure organisations are able to keep pace with changing skills and policy drivers
  • Skills related to the Qualifications and Curriculum Framework (QCF) reforms including understanding the size and level of qualifications, developing more flexible training programmes for learners and tracking learner achievement through the use of a unique learner number (ULN) and an individual’s electronic learner record
  • Skills development in the areas of marketing, PR and advocacy to ensure that organizations remain competitive, reach wider markets and secure new business through skills development in the areas of marketing, PR and advocacy.

Source: LLUK Sector Skills Assessment UK 2010

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Employment trends and future prospects

It is estimated that the size of the lifelong learning workforce as a whole will increase from 2008 to 2015, so will require significant recruitment during this period. It is likely that the work-based learning industry will increase in a similar manner.

As the lifelong learning sector relies on voluntary workers and a high proportion of publically funded positions, the recession is unlikely to impact on the estimated demand for the workforce as severely as the private sector. However, it is expected that there will be an overall decrease on available funding, which will affect employment figures.

Source: LLUK LMI report March 2010

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Future drivers

Policy – A significant driver of change is public policy and legislation, which may be cross sector or sector specific, UK wide or nation specific. Policies implemented by each nation’s Government in relation to skills and education have an important impact in influencing skills needs and priorities across the lifelong learning sector within each nation, particularly in relation to curriculum, working with children and young people, equality and diversity, funding, professionalisation of the workforce, quality and regulation.

The impact of the economic downturn and economic condition of the sector – The current economic downturn clearly impacts across the occupational spectrum. Uncertainty about funding sources was also mentioned as a difficulty. Not knowing whether a certain budget will be available for the medium-term was cited as a barrier to providing high quality services, as planning and investment become difficult. This highlights an important skills need, related to bidding and negotiation skills, to ensure existing funding sources are maintained and new sources secured within an increasingly competitive arena. In addition there is a need for skills in efficient procurement and outsourcing to make the most effective and efficient use of the funds available.

Changes in technology – Stakeholders and employers across all areas of work commented that the rapid pace of change in relation to new technology has created the need to develop new skills and ensure that equipment and training keeps pace with this change. Across the lifelong learning sector it was reported that there has been a demand for e-learning and other types of learning and service delivery, focusing far more on the use of technology Employer needs and engaging with and responding to employers – according to several interviewees, responding to the needs of employers is a significant skills driver, and particularly emphasises the need to equip the workforce with higher level skills and vocational skills.

Learner demand – FE Colleges and HE reported that learner demand and responding to the needs of learners was an important driver of skills. It was commented upon that fewer students can afford to study full time so they are looking for more part-time courses, which require different skills sets and working patterns amongst staff within these areas of work.

Reductions in funding and funding constraints –reductions in funding and funding constraints can be a significant driver of skills demand, in terms of ensuring organisations have the necessary skills to compete for those funding sources which are available, or through making efficiency savings.

Regional/sub-regional influences – a CLD representative from Wales reported that, in areas with high levels of long term unemployment, for example the South Wales valleys, there is a need to provide training around employability skills, that are focused on getting the long term unemployed back into work.

Globalisation – interviewees within the HE area of work reported that this was a significant skills driver in ensuring they are able to compete internationally to attract students from abroad. New skills are also required to facilitate learning for students who are coming to study in the UK from eastern European regions, the Middle East, India and elsewhere.

Sustainability and environmental issues – research within both FE Colleges and HE found that there is a need to develop skills to enable staff to research and develop products within these areas. In addition, national strategies related to environmental issues have an impact upon skills requirements and demand – for instance, ‘green’ policies about alternative energy strategies, the developments in the low carbon industry and refocusing research funding towards climate change.

Demographics – The UK population is expected to increase to around 69.5 million by the year 2054, and this is expected to be an increasingly ageing population. Demand for lifelong learning amongst older learners is therefore likely to increase. This may require updating of staff skills and new approaches to service delivery. The ageing workforce also presents a need for succession planning. This will be to account for the wealth and skills that will be lost through retirements. However with Government plans to increase the retirement age, there may also be a challenge in continuing to develop older workers. The expected fall in the number of 18-20 year olds in the next ten years, could also affect recruitment to the lifelong learning workforce.

Source: LLUK Sector Skills Assessment UK 2010

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