THE NATIONAL Institute of Adult Continuing Education is careful to practice what it preaches about learning at work, says its director Alan Tuckett.
Leicester-based NIACE runs its own employee development scheme, offering each member of staff a year to go on courses.
"We have an elected group of staff who are not management, so people can make the case for what they want to do in learning," Mr Tuckett said.
"We take a very broad view of what kind of learning we support. We had a couple of people do a horse management project last year. There are people learning the violin, and people doing French diploma courses.
"But in NIACE, like the economy as a whole, the easiest people to persuade to do it are those with a combination of time and some positive prior experience.
"The two groups of people under-represented in the NIACE programme are the most senior staff who don't manage their time very well, and people with the least educational qualifications."
Mr Tuckett said NIACE research showed that for people aged 25 to 45, they first go to management or a union representative in the workplace for advice about studying. "Lots of people in junior manager, supervisor or shop steward roles are less than confident about education. All too often they say 'I shouldn't bother'. There's a clear need for giving these people the confidence to give advice."
He regarded schemes such as Return to Learn and Ford's EDAP as "the cutting edge of the new economy". "I think there's a broad realisation of the value of learning for its own sake, and that the skill of learning is the key transferable skill. Six or seven years ago you would have said Ford was really an exception for that kind of employee development scheme, but now there are hundreds of them."
Mr Tuckett believes the expansion of learning at work represents a big challenge for FE. "The workplace is a rich source of new learners. One of the best ways of reaching groups of people who don't see themselves as active learners is to offer them opportunities at work."