Employability scheme puts a strain on colleges

Sector has to devote large amount of time to SDS programme

Julia Belgutay

A new employability scheme from Skills Development Scotland has created a bureaucratic burden for colleges.

In theory, the FE sector supports SDS's New College Learning Programme, and Graeme Hyslop, the principal of Langside College, describes it as "laudable".

But in a period of huge financial strain on the sector, colleges are having to devote considerable staff time to setting up the new courses, TESS has learned, and some new jobs may even have to be created.

The extra administration and organisation required is believed to have stopped one college from applying for SDS funding which is meant to support 4 per cent of funded places next year.

"The SDS-funded employability courses are supporting many young people. However, the system for applying for, running and assessing them is entirely new, and different systems had to be set up to support them," said John Henderson, chief executive of Scotland's Colleges.

"Among some members, particularly smaller colleges, this is harder to absorb and makes delivery proportionally more costly."

Mr Hyslop added: "There is insufficient resource in the (SDS) model to cover student funding costs", so this would have to be met from the institution's bursary budget.

The programme was launched earlier this year and aims to improve the job prospects of people aged 16-24.

Colleges and college groupings were invited to bid to provide courses for the pound;13.1 million programme, which will fund at least 5,800 places predominantly for those aged 16-19.

The programme will encompass a 26-week vocational course combining college-based, employment-orientated teaching and relevant work experience in that industry.

Funding is received per student directly from SDS. Colleges could lose out on part of the funds if a student leaves during the course to take up employment.

Mr Hyslop told TESS it had also become apparent that employers viewed work experience as a direct cost, and had therefore been "incrementally eschewing it".

"Colleges are fighting hard to keep their existing levels of work experience," he said. "So, it has been necessary to either commit to internal work experience programmes - surely a temporary solution and an unsustainable one - or displace a proportion of their existing work experience."

Mr Henderson said that Scotland's Colleges was "seeking for the Scottish government to work with the sector to find a solution that allows the courses to continue and be more cost-effective to deliver".

He hoped a solution could be found for next year to ensure the funding stream could continue to benefit young people.

A spokesman for SDS said: "This programme places a very clear focus on securing successful outcomes and achievements and therefore requires some new ways of working."

SDS would "continue to offer guidance on how best to administer this innovative programme to maximise successful outcomes."

Payments to colleges for the programme

- Learner start - pound;500

- Each 48-hour block of learning and work experience - pound;172

- Student's achievement of an employability certification - pound;113

- Industryvocational certification or progression to higher-level programme or job - pound;270

Requirements of the programme

- A minimum of 192 hours of teaching.

- At least 192 hours of work experience in industry or the voluntary sector, which should include dealing with customers.

- Certification of employability or "work-readiness" upon completion.

- Emphasis on National Qualifications, National Units, and qualifications accredited, endorsed or customised by the Scottish Qualification Authority (vocationally content may include industry-recognised certification).


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Julia Belgutay

Julia Belgutay

Julia Belgutay is head of FE at Tes

Find me on Twitter @JBelgutay

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