Sunday, 4 March 2007

NIACE Conference

Went to a conference in London on Friday. Some fascinating speakers talking on the subject of adult education and the state of play following the election of New Labour on a platform of "Education, education, education". Speakers included Professor Richard Taylor from Cambridge, Professor Maria Slowey from DCU and Jane Thompson. The event was held to launch a book of essays written as a festschrift for Dr Veronica McGivney.

It was both fascinating and deeply depressing. The number of adults in formal learning in this country has declined by 1 million over the last three years and the drive for skills based, utilitarian learning has squeezed funding for courses where people were learning for the sheer joy of learning. The need for vocational qualifications also demeans all the "not qualified" skills that we have. The current culture appears to think that anything which is worth knowing/doing will have a bit of paper attached and this excludes those with necessary skills that fall outside the vocational framework - I think that the people who carry out traditional crafts have great skills but the idea that we need to create a Foundation Degree in dry walling or thatching or brewing is silly but not to HMG.

The bigger issue is that employers have still to embrace the fact that in a few years time there simply won't be enough people leaving school or college to fill the requirements of the job market but it's still difficult to find a job if you are unlucky enough to find yourself out of work after the age of fifty. This tends to be regardless of qualifications - an unemployed engineer will probably face the prejudice that being out of work means that they are a poor engineer.

Of course the biggest problem remains the ongoing discrimination against women. Despite raising over 3,000 pieces of new legislation since coming to power New Labour have still failed to raise laws to address the differences in women's pay and working conditions. Full time women workers are paid, on average, 18% less than men, even when working in the same job. After five years in work women graduates earn 15% less than men with the same qualifications. (ONS, 2004; Women and Equality Unit, 2004 cited by Thompson in "Participation and the pursuit of equality") The number of women in prison has doubled in the last ten years and the majority have no previous convictions, one third have a history of sexual abuse and more than 70% of women offenders have two or more mental illnesses. The government is now pushing for legislation which will mean that single mothers will have to seek work once their youngest child reaches the age of 12. Of course those at most risk, those on benefits, are also often those who are most likely to find work in the lowest paid work and also find it hardest to find work which will offer the flexibility to work only during school hours.

Participation and the pursuit of equality" is the collection of essays released by NIACE as a smashing book edited by Alan Tuckett and it's a jolly good read.

2 careful considerations:

kat said...

The book looks as though it could be useful.


pal said...

Blooming depressing stats. Bring back bra burning or something :-(