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Employers training more effective than colleges, finds ALI

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The Adult Learning Inspectorate's report into Engineering, manufacturing and technology in adult learning reveals that specialist work-based learning providers carried out by employers or employers' organisations is more effective than that carried out by colleges.

The survey of current practice in engineering, manufacturing and technology looked at a wide range of publicly-funded provision including education and training inspected in colleges, training providers and employers who train their own staff.

The study's authors find that, given the strong tradition of training apprentices in engineering, technology and manufacturing it was 'not surprising that advanced modern apprenticeships in this field have been more successful than in other areas of learning', however Foundation modern apprentices and NVQ learners do no better in engineering, technology and manufacturing than in other areas. It is suggested that the success of advanced modern apprenticeships is the result of their dominance among the best providers. In general, the report finds that engineering, technology and manufacturing learners generally get good off-the-job training, rated satisfactory in four out of five providers, coupled with support from their employers which means they are able to make a smooth transition into more advanced workplace learning.

The ALI puts the success of work-based learning in this area down the fact that employers have a close involvement, with many specialist providers group training organisations (GTOs) representing some 7,000 small and medium-sized employers. In contrast, they found little outstanding engineering, technology and manufacturing provision in colleges, with 39 per cent of work-based engineering learning rated unsatisfactory, and much teaching in engineering departments 'dull, uninspiring and lacking in variety', according to the report. The authors conclude that the closer the involvement of employers, the better the education and training.

Despite the relative successes of specialist providers, the research also found many providers have poor quality assurance arrangements in place for for education and training. Training programmes were not being routinely evaluated, and performance was not monitored to identify areas for improvement. There was also a high incidence of poor assessment practice, and the reports authors urge external verifiers from awarding bodies to ensure verification is carried out more closely and effectively.

The survey also noted poor implementation of keys skills training and assessment in all types of engineering, technology and manufacturing education and training, and few women learners and those from ethnic minority groups, with few providers developing effective ways of promoting programmes to these groups.

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