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Flowers in the desert: the impact of policy on basic skills provision in the workplace

Finlay, I.J. and Hodgson, A. and Steer, R. (2007) Flowers in the desert: the impact of policy on basic skills provision in the workplace. Journal of Vocational Education and Training, 59 (2). pp. 231-248. ISSN 1363-6820

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Abstract

In this paper we argue that learning in the workplace can bring considerable benefits for learners and employers. It draws on data from in-depth interviews and secondary sources from eight sites of work-based learning as part of wider research into the effects of five national policy mechanisms within the Learning and Skills Sector. We also have evidence of the positive effects of policy initiatives, in this case, Skills for Life, Union Learning Representatives and Employer Training Pilots, and of legislation such as the Care Standards Act. However, initiative-based resources cannot substitute for longer-term, more secure funding. We have found what may be described as 'flowers in the desert' - provision that grows, develops and blossoms quickly with the injection of funding, but which is very susceptible to changes in resourcing and, like flowers in the desert, can wither as quickly as it grew. We conclude by arguing that initiatives and exhortation are unlikely on their own to ensure that the full benefits of learning in the workplace are realized. There is, therefore, a need both for more sustained funding from government and employers and for greater regulation, such as the 'licence to practise' approach taken in the Health and Social Care professions.