Jobless reject forced training

Learning should be voluntary and only for those who want new skills, report says

Jobless people have rejected plans to force them into training, saying the plan would waste resources on those who are not interested in boosting their skills.

A report by the Department for Work and Pensions, based on interviews with more than 100 unemployed people, said training should be voluntary for the 680,000 people claiming jobseeker's allowance.

The conclusion contradicts Work Skills, the joint policy paper published with the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills (DIUS) in June. It proposed forcing unemployed people to have their skills assessed, with compulsory classes for those deemed below par.

For colleges, the plans could mean a huge influx but, along with attendance due to the proposed raising of the compulsory age for education and training, it would mean more classes would have students who were there against their will.

"All programmes should be offered on a voluntary basis," the report said. "There is little appetite for compulsory attendance at any programme, and customers would prefer resources to be spent on those who are willing and able to benefit."

The research found people were happy for their skills to be tested to see if they would benefit from training, but thought the tests should not be compulsory or universal; instead, they should be used only if advisers have particular concerns, or a jobseeker requests them.

Interviewees said that when they do want training, it should start right away, rather than only after they have been unemployed for a certain period. They were also concerned that the cost of training, including travel, equipment, books and childcare, should be covered.

The University and College Union opposes extending compulsion in education. It says colleges should have resources for outreach work to encourage the unemployed to study.

Single parents on benefits and some people on incapacity benefit could also face compulsory training, while colleges face an influx of up to 200,000 teenagers forced to stay on in education with the raising of the leaving age to 18 by 2015.

But despite the concerns, DIUS said it would not change its plans for the unemployed. Ministers have said training is an integral part of the benefits system, and that those on benefits have a duty to do all they can to get back into work.

A spokesperson said: "We are only doing what is fair. Our aim is to give everyone the opportunity to make the most of their talents and secure their own prosperity through improving their chances to get and keep the jobs of the future. The steps we announced in June are a key part of our plans."

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