A fleet of websites will steer you through a sea of reforms, says Sue Jones.
Work-based education and training can be a minefield, but there are funds to draw on and organisations to guide you. The obvious place to start is with the Government.
The website for the Department for Education and Employment at www.dfee.gov.uk offers details of policies, programmes and other organisations such as the Adult Basic Skills Strategy Unit. You can also discover local initiatives such as Learning Cities and Learning Partnerships as well as find out how to draw on public funds including individual learning accounts, career development loans, small firms loans and the single regeneration budget.
You can also find out how you might be held to account by the Adult Learning Inspectorate at www.ali.gov.uk. As from next month, ALI will take over from the Training Standards Council - which will still be available at www.tsc.gov.uk - to inspect government-funded, work-based training in England.
Educational institutions also have their own resources. The Association of Colleges (www.aoc. co. uk) advises the further education sector on how to get closer to local businesses and how to provide work-based training. For higher education, there is the Learning and Teaching Support Network (www.lstn.ac.uk), which has employment-area themes. There is also a wide range of links.
Employers who need job-specific training should contact their National Training Organisation at www.nto-nc.org. The site lists policy statements, conferences and reference information. he Trades Union Congress (www. tuc.org.uk) also has plenty of useful information.
Those who want to get their work-related qualifications at home should visit the National Extension College (www.nec.ac.uk), a non-profit-making trust that supplies tutored courses and self-study packages.
Many learners and providers defy categorisation. Voluntary organisations and small community groups may see training as just one aspect of their work. For them, there are also umbrella organisations to help sort out the jigsaw puzzle.
More than 80 per cent of work-based learning in the United Kingdom is delivered by members of the Association of Learning Providers, a network that provides a wealth of information (www.learn ing-providers.net).
The Unemployment Unit and Youthaid is a non-government, welfare-to-work centre that conducts research and represents training and work-experience providers and voluntary groups. It offers an extensive website (www. uuy.org.uk) with a wide range of information and contacts such as the Training and Employment Network, which lists organisations working with disadvantaged groups.
The National Institute of Adult Continuing Education (Niace) represents providers, users and policy-makers. It aims to widen access and increase participation in courses throughout the country.
Its website (www.niace.org.uk) contains detailed information on training and funding and a database of its campaigns, publications and web links.
For more useful learning and skills sites on the web, visit www.tesfefocus.co.uk