Working Together in Changing Times

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					                                                                                                   Working Together
                                                                                                         in Changing Times
                                                                                                                                           April 2006
                                                                                              Learning and training for the Voluntary Sector in Shropshire
Plenary discussion
The concluding discussion of the conference focussed largely on how the voluntary
                                                                                        This edition of the Working Together          Shropshire Community Venues
and community sector defines itself and its values. Its engagement with the public
                                                                                        newsletter is devoted to a report of          suitable for use for this area of work.
sector could increase the confusion between the two. However, although they may
                                                                                        our recent Conference – ‘Changing
have some common interests and shared values, and partnership is both
                                                                                        Times’ – which looked at the changes          One of the biggest projects, Getting
unavoidable and desirable, they are bringing different strengths to the table.
                                                                                        facing the voluntary sector and the           Qualified, offers free access to NVQ
                                                                                        role of learning and training in              Level 3 for the voluntary sector in a
The VCS has the capacity to make small resources go a long way, to think creatively
                                                                                        responding to these new demands.              joint partnership between six VCS
and to draw upon their special relationship with the communities in which they
                                                                                        The two main speakers, from the               organisations and two FE colleges.
work. They need to be clear about their own strengths and values in order to avoid
                                                                                        Learning & Skills Council (LSC) and           NVQs are particularly applicable to
subsuming those to the government agenda. Combining together can increase their
                                                                                        National Council for Voluntary                the sector because they give the
strength and morale, and introduce efficiencies, but they need to educate
                                                                                        Organisations (NCVO), together with           status of nationally recognised
government into recognising the value of small organisations and their different
                                                                                        the workshop leaders, encouraged              standards, via work-based
                                                                                        participants to consider and discuss          assessment, to the skills and
                                                                                        the implications of these changes.            competence that volunteers are
We are in a process of change. Major changes in the LSC will impact upon the
                                                                                        They suggested that, given the right          already demonstrating in the work
voluntary and community sector and add to the necessary changes the sector is
                                                                                        preparation, the voluntary and                they do.
going through. Good communication is of the essence.
                                                                                        community sector (VCS) might be
                                                                                        able to use them as an opportunity            There has been a high take-up rate,
                                                                                        rather than a threat.                         with only 20 places left of the original
                                                                                                                                      150 target learners, and 3 places left
                                                                                                                                      from the funding for 12 assessors. A
                                                                                        Learning and training                         wide range of subjects have been
                                                                                        Julia Baron, Chief Executive,                 taken up, from Children’s Care,
                                                                                        Community Council of Shropshire               Learning & Development to Advice &
                                                                                        ‘Working Together’ – the LSC national
                                                                                        strategy for work with the sector –           All this necessitates a demanding
                                                                                        highlights the three key roles of the         process of sourcing funds, tendering
                                                                                        VCS: as a major employer, as a                for work and negotiating contracts.
                                                                                        provider of education and training,           Working together with the LSC is
                                                                                        and as channel for communication              therefore essential and offers great
                                                                                        with, and source of expertise about,          potential in enabling the provision of
                                                                                        disadvantaged groups.                         locally relevant training.

                                                                                        This experience and expertise enables         Contact:
                                                                                        the sector to make maximum use of   
                                                                                        limited and year-on-year funding. In
                                                                                        its role as an infrastructure body, the
                                                                                        Community Council of Shropshire               Changing Times
                                                                                        provides the free Voluntary Sector            Cheryl Turner, Senior Policy
                                                                                        Learning Network, produces the                Manager, LSC
                                                                                        ‘Working Together’ newsletter, and
                                                                                        has developed the VSLIP website –             One of Cheryl’s major concerns is to
                                                                                        the main portal for those VCS                 ensure that there is a voluntary and
Printed and distributed by the Community Council of Shropshire, 5 Claremont Building,   organisations involved in learning and        community sector dimension to the
Claremont, Shrewsbury SY1 1RJ                                                           training. Other information available         work of the LSC and she joined the
A Company limited by guarantee, registered in England & Wales No.4652487. Registered    includes a Digest of Training Courses,        LSC after 20 years in the VCS in order
Charity No.1096779                                                                      a Directory of Trainers, and a list of        to promote this strategy. She is

                                           12                                                                                     1
responsible for the ‘Working Together’                 for them but could need help in setting        relevant personnel, and a checklist. There          look at the barriers to volunteer training
strategy which encourages and facilitates             up the quality systems to demonstrate           is a need to keep bureaucracy to a                  and possible solutions.
co-operation between the LSC and the                  and monitor the good work they are              minimum.
VCS. This co-operation is important for               already doing. Accordingly the LSC is                                                               These may be to do with attitudes. Fear of
three reasons                                         working with NIACE to consider how this         In-house training might benefit from                training can be worsened by negative
- the VCS has substantial expertise in                might be provided.                              outside speakers, and taster sessions               feedback from other volunteers;
supporting disadvantaged groups                                                                       could be offered to motivate uptake. On-            commitment to the full process may be
- the VCS can play a significant role as a            The LSC needs to acknowledge that the           going training, for additional skills, needs        lacking; or there may be over-confidence
provider of learning and skills                       provision of Skills for Employers is also       good support and supervision and the                and a feeling that training is not needed.
- the VCS is itself a major employer.                 relevant to the VCS, both in their capacity     benefits can be maximised by follow-up              * Much of this can be overcome by
                                                      as employers themselves and in their            and by efficient recording. Accredited              involving the volunteers in developing the
Cheryl discussed the implications of the              potential as providers, working to a set of     training, often provided at FE colleges,            programme; offering peer support;
‘Agenda for Change’ for both the LSC                  quality standards and awarded a Quality         may need to be ‘sold’ to the volunteers.            offering taster sessions to tempt
and the VCS. Both will need to adapt their            Mark to demonstrate their capacity to           Though it can offer them long-term                  volunteers into the process; and
strategies and processes in order to                  offer viable and specialist support to          benefits beyond their volunteering it may           recognising achievements as they are
maximise the benefits of co-operation. For            businesses.                                     be difficult to motivate them to take on            made.
example, for the LSC to enable the VCS to                                                             extra tasks and they may find them
access direct mainstream funding, the                   The key issue is Funding and the major        difficult to access.                                There may be practical problems for
latter may need to adapt the way they                   change is towards simplification of                                                               volunteers – of time, other responsibilities
operate.                                                         previously complex allocation        On the job training may seem more                   and access to venues.
                                         This is going to       processes in order to treat all       relevant to them. It may involve one-to-            *These might be eased by linking
The LSC’s agenda to transform the            present a          providers equally, in an open and     one training and a degree of self-                  volunteers (for transport and for mutual
post-16 learning and skills sector           ‘crisis and        competitive tendering process.        monitoring so again it will require support,        support); seeking out accessible venues;
should engage the VCS not just in         opportunity’ to       Thus although there is a statutory    supervision and monitoring. Access to               and by making the training itself attractive
its role as employer (the VCS              the VCS and          requirement to allocate a             training beyond the volunteer role is a             and enjoyable so that it becomes a first
employs more people than the car             the sector         proportion of funding to the FE       question of personal development and                choice for the volunteer.
industry or agriculture) but because        needs to be         colleges other areas of LSC work      requires skills within the organisation to
hard-to-reach learners are often          prepared for it.      are gradually being opened up to      identify what will be relevant and useful to        There are also practical problems for the
most effectively reached by the VCS.                            open and competitive tendering.       the individual.                                     organisation, in sourcing funding and the
 In addition, although the                                                                                                                                right trainers.
easy-to-reach but underskilled are going                This new funding strategy will come into      Louise used the example of Home-Start               * These may be skills that the
into FE courses and colleges, the                       effect in 2007-8 and will not imply a         North Shropshire & Oswestry to                      organisation personnel need their own
requirement in the Learning & Skills Act                sudden change from FE to VCS provision        demonstrate a comprehensive training                training for.
2000 for ‘proper and reasonable’ provision              but there will be a more detached look at     programme. They offer a Preparation
reflects the lack of effective provision in             what the FE colleges are providing. This is   Course for new volunteers, now accredited           Finally there is the need to make training
some FE colleges. The Agenda for Change                 going to present a ‘crisis and opportunity’   at OCN Level 1, which includes                      appropriate to the volunteer so that they
Prospectus (August 2005) was built on                   to the VCS and the sector needs to be         Induction to volunteering and Induction to          want to, and can, engage with it.
discussion with FE colleges and did not                 prepared for it. Small organisations may      Home-Start; and In-house training for               * This requires a sensitive awareness on
involve the VCS but the sector is now                   find it difficult to engage in the process    groups of volunteers, including outside             the part of the organisation personnel. Are
being included in the discussions as to how             but the suggestion is that they might         speakers. In all 30 hours of training are           they knowledgeable and sensitive on
each theme of the agenda might be                       work in partnership with FE or with each      provided, taking the volunteers through             literacy and numeracy issues? Are they
implemented.                                            other.                                        Legal issues e.g. Child Protection, personal        providing the information and skills
                                                                                                      safety, confidentiality; the Role of the            relevant to the volunteer? Is the
The emphasis on Quality of provision has              The simplification process is also being        volunteer; Support and supervision;                 information that is presented jargon-free
implications for those FE providers who               applied to the collection of Data. Data         Attitudes and Values; and Home Visiting.            and is it delivered appropriately?
are offering poor quality provision (and              collection about the work of the VCS can        Longer term volunteers can access NVQ
may therefore lose contracts) and VCS                 be onerous and may not be used to its full      Level 2 Advice and Guidance.                        Contact:
organisations who may be eligible to apply            extent. Currently learners are not tracked      Workshop participants were then asked to

                                                  2                                                                                                  11
                                                  required. This should then help the VCS      over the whole course of their learning,           providers will now be able to apply for
Future working together                           provider to put in enough of a bid to        which might take them from an                      capital costs of their provision
Sue concluded with a series of questions          cover their full costs to run the service.   introductory course at the village hall            (previously this was only possible for
for discussion and this enabled VCS
                                                                                               to a full college qualification. Nor are all       FE providers) though this has still to be
representatives to voice their concerns.          Contact:              VCS organisations necessarily                      refined by the DfES. There may also be
How will local needs be represented at
                                                                                               targeting LSC qualifications. The                  things that the VCS can do better than
regional level? If contracting happens at
                                                                                               establishment of Common Data                       the FE colleges. Better co-operation
regional level there is some concern that
this will give undue weight to the big
                                                  Training for Volunteers                      Definitions and the Unique Learner                 between the LSC, the colleges and the
                                                  Louise Stokes, Chief Officer, North          Number should enable effective                     VCS will ensure that work is not
urban providers and that provision will
                                                  Shropshire Voluntary Action                  recording and analysis of what is being            duplicated, that it is done in the most
concentrate in urban centres.
                                                                                               provided and what trainees are                     effective way, and that the rewards are
Might this also limit innovation
                                        Working in       This was a very comprehensive         achieving.                                         equitable.
and creativity if small
                                     partnerships or     presentation of all the different
organisations are working in
                                     consortia could     forms of volunteer training,          All of this has implications for the way           The priority for the LSC is therefore to
competition with the standard
                                         ease the        ranging from induction to access to   the LSC operates and the resulting re-             emphasise the importance of the VCS
players? Working in partnerships
                                       pressure on       training beyond the volunteer role.   organisation includes the priority to              as providers and employers, to inform
 or consortia could however ease
                                          small          It began from the premise that        create smoother liaison with the VCS,              the sector of opportunities as they
the pressure on small
                                      organisations      volunteer time is a valuable          specifically with the provision of a               develop, to encourage and enable the
organisations and encourage
                                     and encourage       resource that needs to be             named contact in every LSC team. In                formation of consortia, and to support
constructive exchange.
                                       constructive      maximised and recognised by           order to prepare the VCS to contract               the sector in its partnerships with FE
                                        exchange.        appropriate training at each stage.   with the LSC the sector will be                    colleges. The onus on the VCS is to
It is not the case that tenders will
                                                                                               encouraged to form Consortia.                      prepare itself for the new agenda by
only be offered to bodies which already
                                                 Induction is the process of preparing         (Different arrangements will be needed             ensuring that is working to LSC
have provider approval, but accepted
                                                 volunteers for a clear relationship with      for national VCS organisations which               priorities and targets. ‘Mission drift’ can
bodies will then have to go through the
                                                 your organisation, giving them an             will have individual national contracts            be a waste of energies. To become an
process. Bodies will have to be offering
                                                 understanding of the organisation and         rather than working through consortia,             approved provider an organisation, or
something that other organisations
                                                 their role in it.                             but will still be able to work regionally          consortia, will need the capacity to
aren’t, so should not go through all the
                                                                                               in liaison with the regional LSCs and              provide the quality standards, data and
hoops until they know that they have a
                                                 Training is the process of preparing          can co-operate with local consortia.)              management information systems that
viable product to offer. And if the VCS is
                                                 volunteers to perform the work of your        With more precisely defined quality                will give it an equal place in the field.
advised to form into consortia to better
                                                 organisation and should include the           standards and funding processes the
engage with this process there is an
                                                 information and skills but also the           LSC will be unable to contract with lots           Subsequent questions expressed
obligation on government to also
                                                 attitudes and approaches they need to         of small organisations and will be                 concern at the lack of capacity in the
operate in a joined-up way, so that a
                                                 successfully perform the work.                looking towards bodies that show a                 VCS to establish yet another set of
VCS organisation that is working in
                                                                                               clear awareness of, and the capacity to            quality standards, to do the tendering
partnership with, for example, the
                                                 Coaching is the process of developing         deliver to, LSC targets.                           and to set up consortia (and even the
health service, does not lose its
investment in that process if a service is       and upgrading skills and follows a three                                                         desirability of setting up another layer
                                                 step process - a demonstration of the         So life may be tougher for VCS                     of the VCS structure). However Cheryl
unexpectedly cut back.
                                                 skill to be learned or improved;              organisations but may also be more                 confirmed that most of the quality
                                                 observation of the volunteer trying out       rewarding. FE colleges will be                     assessment will be via be self-
Tender processes can be quite time-
                                                 the skill; and feedback and analysis.         encouraged to retain no more than                  assessment, that training will be
compressed and this can exclude the
                                                                                               15% of the LSC funding when they                   available for this and for consortia
VCS from the process if they need to get
                                                 The workshop participants spent time          franchise out to other providers if they           building and that the LSC website
a partnership together. The LSC needs
                                                 considering what training they gave their     are not doing a significant proportion of          contains information in toolkits about
to think about advance notice of
                                                 volunteers and identifying what worked        the work (previously it could have been            the characteristics and establishment
intention to tender and to be clear about
                                                 and what didn’t. Induction might include      as high as 60%). In addition the White             of consortia.
exactly what they want from approved
                                                 information packs, meetings with              paper on FE published this week
contractors, including what data is
                                                                                               suggests that the VCS along with other             Contact:

                                               10                                                                                             3
Public service reform and                        In order to check how far these                Framework for Achievement which                colleges. Working in co-operation has
rural policy in the VCS                          recommendations have actually been             offers accreditation for smaller modules       also made it more possible to access
Claire Steel, Rural Policy Officer,              implemented a National Audit Office            which can be added to.                         funding – from the European Social
National Council for Voluntary                   study asked NCVO to research the                                                              Fund, Local Intervention and
Organisations                                    experience of service delivery                 All the learning offered must be of high       Development Funds, and Information,
                                                 organisations. Although 37% of VCS             quality, delivered by people with the          Advice & Guidance contracts.
The reform of public services, and how           income comes from government, the VCS          appropriate qualifications. These may          Consolidating and maintaining a local
they are delivered, is at the heart of the       receives only 2% of public expenditure         initially be tutors with experiential          infrastructure is vital to the continuing
political agenda. The government wants           on public services, so there is huge           rather than paper qualifications but           stability of the VCS. If it is lost it is
public services that are accountable to          potential for expansion. In addition,          they themselves can be offered the             very difficult to re-build.
their users, devolved to, and reflecting,        although there is not a major difference       opportunity to go on to get a
local areas but satisfying national              between urban and rural contractors, a         recognised qualification. And                  The Agenda for Change
minimum standards.                               greater number of contracts go to large        underpinning the quality of tuition            Colleges and other providers will be
                                                 national organisations. A greater              should be a high standard of                   valued by employers if they provide the
There are opportunities here for the             understanding of how small rural               infrastructure and support including           skills they need. The Quality Mark will
voluntary sector, and NCVO and other             organisations work would not only result       buildings fit for purpose and co-              make demands on the VCS but offer
national bodies have been working to             in more appropriate contracts but would        ordinated provision.                           them rewards, and could be achieved
involve the sector in the agenda for             accord with the emphasis on locally                                                           largely by self-improvement and self-
public service reform while at the same          based provision. These are the experts         Funding Priorities                             assessment. Simplifying funding routes
time maintaining the independence of             on their local communities.                    The government’s top priority are 16-          and data collection (via the Unique
the sector.                                                                                     18 year olds, followed by the first full       Learner Number) will reduce the
                                                 Perhaps even more important than their         Level 2 (the employability level), the         administrative burden and improve
The emphasis on the local context, with          knowledge, experience & expertise, what        Skills for Life programme which is             efficiency. Promoting best practice,
Local Area Agreements responding to              the VCS can bring to the field of public       concerned with literacy and numeracy           monitoring quality of provision, and
local needs, could facilitate greater user       service delivery is a different perspective.   skills and on which 80% must be                marketing it well, will all increase the
involvement and develop services that            Their experience of the community also         working towards an accredited                  reputation of the sector.
are relevant to their context and                brings a relationship with the community.      qualification, and the Level 3 in skill
therefore more sustainable. The onus is          Working from a different motivation            shortage areas.                                Because of all these changes the LSC
on the VCS to make themselves aware              (often expressed as their ‘mission’) they                                                     needs to go through its own training
of the agenda and decide how they can            are more likely to be working in ways          At the other end of the spectrum is the        process and a significant restructuring.
best work with government to secure              that emphasise user involvement and            Personal Community Development                 Recognising that sudden change is
the best terms for the sector and, where         choice and encourage mutual trust              Learning programme where the                   destabilising, it is working to a long-
rural organisations are concerned, to            between service provider and client.           learning is for learning’s sake, perhaps       term vision, and liasing with the VCS to
‘rurally proof’ the process.                                                                    as a leisure activity, and there is no         enable the sector to prepare for the
                                                 The actual process of public service           programme of progression and no need           new demands and possibilities.
Government has given a lot of thought            delivery can therefore become part of the      to sit qualifications. It is the section
to its relationship with the VCS and the         mission, and the VCS needs to ensure           between these two, offering                    The new LSC structure and the
sector’s role in public service reform           that the way contracts are written             independent living skills or provision         changes this will bring
over the past few years but this has not         reflects this. Contracts will also, of         for offenders, that is being squeezed.         The local LSC team will be reduced
necessarily been reflected in changes on         course, reflect government commitments                                                        from 50 to 13 and will work in
the ground. The Treasury cross-cutting           to equity, universality and accountability,    Engaging with the VCS                          partnership with the Hereford &
review (2002) was one of the most                and these constraints will limit the           In Shropshire the LSC is working with          Worcester LSC. Contracting will happen
important documents to have come out             flexibility of the organisation. They may      the Community Council and Telford &            at regional level, to avoid duplication.
of government, since the VCS can quote           also place it at risk of over-expansion,       Wrekin CVS and has reached more                VCS providers should take time to
its recommendations on improving                 unsustainable development and the              than 450 voluntary and community               consider what they are offering and
funding and contracting practices.               problem of having ‘all its eggs in one         organisations, identifying nearly 2,250        what they are signing up to in order to
                                                 basket’.                                       learners from the sector, while other          ensure that they can deliver it.
                                                                                                work is being done through the FE

                                             4                                                                                             9
There will always be constraints on time           shared and volunteers can both influence
                                                                                                It is precisely because the VCS has              channelled through the Rural
and money. Individuals re-training can            and re-inforce each other. Residential
                                                                                                different values to bring to public              Development Agencies who have an
lose their salary. There is also a cost in        courses, group work, and shared meals
                                                                                                services that it should ensure that              economic and business emphasis that
tendering and managing contracts.                 all make this more possible, and more
                                                                                                involvement in public service delivery           inevitable focuses on the cities in their
* Building full cost recovery into                fun, serving to motivate those involved
                                                                                                does not dilute or threaten its                  region.
contracts can allow contracts to reflect          and increase the likelihood of word-of-
                                                                                                independence. If voluntary
the extra demands on the organisation             mouth encouragement to other potential
                                                                                                organisations are clear about their own           The new England Rural Development
and also reflect its wider mission.               trainees.
                                                                                                value and mission they will be better             Programme will end the Rural
                                                                                                able to protect, and project, it in their         Enterprise Scheme in its current form
There is a danger that the voluntary              Contact:
                                                                                                dealings with government.                         and the money will be spread wider,
sector will be regarded as (and exploited
as) a public sector workforce on the                                                                                                              and therefore thinner. Local
                                                                                                They will however need help to                    government will increase in importance
cheap.                                            Working together locally –                    negotiate the tricky business of                  and therefore the emphasis on local
* Could the sector turn this to their
advantage by using their power to shape           LSC and the voluntary and                     procurement and NCVO have                                 provision will increase. In the
                                                  community sector                              been working to develop             If voluntary          Comprehensive Spending Review
contracts? They have a huge free
                                                  Sue Marston, Head of Regeneration,            procurement guidance for the     organisations are        everything is on the table.
workforce i.e. volunteers; they are
                                                  LSC                                           sector, set up a network of      clear about their
independent bodies; and they have a
                                                                                                VCS procurement officers,         own value and           These developments might
wider mission – not just offering public
                                                  In her workshop Sue Marston looked at         and establish a Collaborative    mission they will        Increase the potential for VCS
services but empowering people who
                                                  how the Working Together strategy             Working Unit to work with        be better able to        involvement but greater care will
use those services.
                                                  impacts on the local VCS; how the LSC         smaller organisations. This        protect, and           be needed to avoid exploitation.
                                                  chooses its priorities currently; and how     unit can help organisations      project, it in their     Taking public service delivery is
There are increasing constraints of
                                                  the Agenda for Change will affect the way     come together to offer             dealings with          a choice for the VCS. VCS
legislation (e.g. Food hygiene) and
                                                  the LSC purchases skills from and works       public service delivery            government.            engagement with government in
standards of qualification necessary
                                                  with the local VCS.                           (,                                public service provision needs to
(e.g. for Early Years work). Volunteers
                                                                                                combining administrative functions                be prepared for, approached
can be deterred from putting themselves
                                                  Local Priorities                              such as HR and IT and creating mutual             realistically and structured to preserve
forward for training.
                                                  The LSC sets national, regional and local     support.                                          the VCS agenda.
* It is important to work to those
constraints that are necessary, but not           priorities but these last are also gathered
                                                  from the ground up. Stimulating a             NCVO has also produced two sets of               Contact:
create unnecessary demands; making
                                                  demand for and increasing uptake of           terms of engagement on public service
training appropriate but not
                                                  learning is a matter not only of offering a   delivery, one for the sector and one for
intimidating; and tailoring it to the
                                                                                                government, and both are available on
needs of the individual (including                wide choice but of communicating the                                                           How voluntary and
                                                  opportunities to the right target groups,     their website. Some sections of
attention to cost, location and timing). It                                                                                                      community organisations
                                                  in particular those marginalised groups       government have only a confused, and
is partly a question of how training is
marketed. The sector needs volunteers             that have most to gain but are least likely   even apprehensive, view of the                   can connect with Skills for
                                                  to get involved in training.                  voluntary sector, and the sector has             Life
to come forward. Volunteers may
                                                                                                the demanding task of improving its              Marie Kerwin and Colleen
welcome the chance to get skills.
                                                  Engaging with employers offers them the       transparency and accountability to               Wickstead, National Institute for
                                                  support they need and ensures that the        reassure its statutory partners.                 Adult Continuing Education
Volunteers may feel they are working in
isolation and that the considerable effort        relevant skills are offered, so there is an
                                                  increasing focus on joint investment with     The crisis in the countryside                    The Skills for Life project is designed to
they need to put into training is not
                                                  employers. Level 2 is fully funded. For       precipitated by Foot and Mouth                   provide flexible support, over relatively
                                                  Level 3 employers put in 50% of funding.      prompted the Haskins Review and the              small time-spans, as requested by
* Evaluation and feedback is vital, not
                                                  Offering a range of learner pathways          Rural Social and Community                       smaller VCS organisations to meet
just to tailor future training but to
                                                  enables people to qualify through             Programme but the latter was for a               their needs for LLN skills. Appropriate
feedback to volunteers the value of their
                                                  different routes. For example the             limited period and much of the funding           help addressing their own particular
participation. Success stories can be
                                                                                                for rural regeneration is now

                                              8                                                                                             5
needs is not always available to such               Three of the successful Shropshire            Activity included the delivery of awareness         approaches in all future work and
organisations and the aim was to build              organisations described their experience      raising training sessions to staff and              ensure sustainable funding to do so.
their capacity so that further workforce            of the project and what they had used         volunteers, the development of an
development was sustainable, particularly           the funding for.                              induction pack, six workshop sessions for           Contact:
through the development of partnerships                                                           parents and children and the provision of
and networks.                                       The Homeless in Oswestry Action               resource boxes for development workers.
                                                    Partnership advice officers offer help        Attention was also paid to evaluation,              Workforce Development
There are 7 million adults in England with          with housing problems such as failing         making the project sustainable and                  Simon Cottingham, Rural Action
low levels of literacy and numeracy. By             tenancies, plus a furniture recycling         adapted to local needs. Individuals were            West Midlands
raising awareness in the VCS of the Skills          scheme, and were interested in                identified to progress to Level 2 Certificate
for Life agenda, organisations can be               developing the literacy and numeracy          in Learner Support.                                 Simon approached the issue of
directed to appropriate, local help. The            skills of both volunteers and clients. They                                                       workforce development for the
funding offers opportunities to both staff          decided Internet facilities were a priority   The greatest challenge was motivating               voluntary sector in Shropshire by
and volunteers. 3-hour practical sessions           and used the NIACE funding for a mobile       volunteers to give extra time to the                splitting the workshop participants into
raise awareness of what it meant for the            phone and laptop so that the technology       process and more time, and therefore                two groups. Their task was to look at
individual to have inadequate literacy and          could be taken into people’s houses.          further funding, is needed to carry it              the problems or barriers, for both
numeracy skills and also how this can               Courses were offered to people who            forward. The benefits to the organisation           organisations and individuals,
impact on the wider community. An 18-               wanted to do them. Confidence building        are already evident in terms of the raised          regarding Demand and Supply
hour course aims to provide the means to            was important but having the courses          awareness of abilities and needs of staff,          respectively.
tackle those skill shortages, including             house-based provided a good start. Thus       volunteers and parents, and a new
additional skills to build relationships with       a small amount of money has gone a            approach to developing publicity and                Once the two groups had drawn up
clients in order to support them, recognise         long way.                                     other material.                                     their lists they were asked to problem-
avoidance strategies and other blocks to                                                                                                              reverse, i.e. to consider how the
training, and the capacity to signpost them         One positive aspect of this for the           Home-Start North Shropshire &                       problem or barrier could be turned to
to other services to further improve their          organisation was the actual process of        Oswestry used their funding to train staff          an advantage. People found this quite
life chances.                                       focusing on what needed to be done and        and volunteers to pick up skill shortages           hard to do because we could not think
                                                    how to do it. Entering the world of           and signpost people to training. The 3-             of many positive aspects to our
In 2006 the DfES agreed funding for three           training, which has its own language and      hour awareness session is an eye-opener,            problems. We were then asked to use
regions, of which Shropshire was one, to            complexities, was a challenge, but            giving a personal understanding of the              any of the problem-reverse ideas to
be divided between 3-5 organisations.               managing this was itself re-inforcing for     daily difficulties faced by the low-skilled.        come up with positive solutions.
There was a fairly tight timetable, but a           the organisation.                             Volunteers receive training to help clients
simplified application process helped                                                             with their skill shortages but volunteers           Those working within the voluntary
organisations to bid for support and the            The Pre-School Learning Alliance              have their own training needs which the             sector, whether as volunteers, paid
five successful applicants were Home-Start          works with 15,000 pre-schools and             awareness raising enables them to                   staff or committee members, can face
North Shropshire & Oswestry, Homeless in            500,000 young children across England.        recognise and acknowledge.                          heavy demands on their time; feel a
Oswestry Action Partnership, North                  Their aim is to help children to succeed,                                                         lack of confidence (for e.g. working on
Shropshire Furniture Scheme, The Pre-               create the childcare which families need,     This then increases their sensitivity to the        a management committee); or feel the
School Learning Alliance and The Walled             and build learning communities. They are      needs of clients, giving openings for               need for training.
Garden.                                             already a recognised provider of high         admission of need. It has also led to the           * The solution to this might be to make
                                                    quality training and were keen to work        development of materials that are reader-           training more accessible, appropriate to
Each organisation had a one-to-one                  with NIACE to provide awareness of the        friendly, and an emphasis on talking                the worker and the organisation, and
interview with the Regional Development             Skills for Life strategy to staff and         things through as an addition to written            less ‘heavy’, and to acknowledge that
Officer, an action plan was agreed, and             volunteers. This could then be carried out    material.                                           there is also a value in the experience
support, information and resource                   to Toddler Groups and provide                                                                     and understanding they already
materials were offered as appropriate, with         opportunities for parents to access their     The funding has allowed time for the                possess. Committee members might
meetings held only when necessary.                  own learning while supporting their           organisation to address training needs              then be less intimidated by the
                                                    children’s learning.                          while not impinging on their core work.             prospect and even regard it as an
                                                                                                  The challenge is to incorporate these               enjoyable bonus.

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Description: Working Together in Changing Times