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Sector Training, Learning and Skills

Updated 22/12/03

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We take a look at new publications on Voluntary Sector Training, Workforce Development and the involvement of voluntary groups in the 'learning agenda'.


Reports from VSNTO

Leading Managers: A guide to Management Development in the Voluntary Sector (ISBN 1 870904 91 5, Feb 01) and the Workforce Development Plan 2001 are both available free from the Voluntary Sector National Training Organisation (VSNTO) on 020 7520 2497 (email: vsnto@ncvo-vol.co.uk)

Would you credit it? A guide on Scottish and National Vocational Qualifications for the voluntary sector. VSNTO, March 2001, ISBN 903416 14 0, £5.

Mutual Advantage

'Mutual Advantage: Working with Voluntary and Community Organisations on Learning and Skills' published by DfEE. Available free from DfEE Publications, Prolog Ltd, Sherwood park, Annesley, Nottingham NG15 0DL, phone 0845 6022260, email: dfee@prologistics.co.uk

No longer seems to be available on DfES site (Dec 03).

RSA reports

Making it Work - Learning and Accreditation in the Voluntary Sector, costs 5 inc p&p from 020 7451 6833. We are not sure whether this replaces Opening Doors: an Accreditation Guide for the Voluntary Sector (see right). ISBN 0 901469 42 4, 12.00, 84pp. Produced by the RSA's Project 2001 in partnership with National Association of Councils for Voluntary Service.


VSNTO - Developments

The Workforce Development Plan is a pretty comprehensive overview of the current situation, all the agencies which have an interest in training and the sector, and 'sets out the sector's needs and interests in the fields of learning, skills and qualifications'. The complexity of both the environment creating demands on voluntary sector skills and the training infrastructure is perhaps the most striking impression. Six case studies of varied initiatives to tackle training needs helps give a much more practical understanding of what is involved in such work.

The Management Development publication is very much a 'first steps' guide for all those looking to their own development as managers, whether paid or unpaid. We were pleased and slightly intrigued that the VolResource Professional Training page is the only entry under 'courses leading to qualifications' - we are happy to be recognised as THE source on finding these. Apart from a dozen other Sources of Help listing sections (e.g. general reading, working with volunteers, quality standards), there is also a checklist of esential management skills. This is more about raising questions and thinking through the implications than a 'tick and bash' exercise. VolResource may well incorporate a few pointers into our Management briefing pages in due course, but in an eleven page document some issues are inevitably cut down so far as to be in danger of being misinterpreted by the beginner. (We can talk!)

Some statistics from the above are quoted on our People Management Resources page.


Mutual Advantage

captures good practice in involving the sector in the learning agenda, and looks to voluntary organisations playing a greater role in promoting lifelong learning. There are some very positive messages here, but it is also clear that the area under review - partnerships between voluntary/community groups and public sector bodies (mainly TECs) - took a lot of time and patience from many people to win through. Part 2 of the report is certainly essential reading for all those interested in the new Learning and Skills Councils both providing support to the sector in 'capacity building' and involving the sector in training provision to improve 'social capital' and skills generally. (We have yet to download a read Part 1.)

Part 2 of the report features:

Profiles of work in three TEC areas (Hampshire, Sandwell and Wigan)

Case studies:

  • Birmingham Voluntary Sector Quality Development Programme
  • Calderdale & Kirklees TEC working with the voluntary sector
  • CITINET learning centre network (Sheffield)
  • North London TEC working with the voluntary sector
  • Pan-London Community Regeneration Consortium
  • VOLCAAN (Voluntary and Community Alliance Across Norfolk)
Resources, for use by LLSCs, voluntary sector and other partners:

  • Developing Voluntary and Community Sector Involvement in LLSC Activities
  • Voluntary and Community Sector Roles in Learning and Skills
  • Resources and Funding for Organisational Capacity Building
  • Partnerships and Trust
  • Networks and Contacts
  • Glossary

We found the Lessons from the Birmingham Voluntary Sector Quality Development Programme (BVSQDP) case study of particular interest, so quote in full here (see our Quality page for info on unfamiliar terms):

  • It has taken three years for the BVSQDP to reach this stage, longer than expected. It has typically taken organisations 24 to 30 months, rather than 18 to 24 months to meet the PQASSO standards. Bowl and McCabe attributed this as mainly due to competing priorities, changes in personnel and the uncertain funding environment faced by smaller voluntary organisations.
  • Most progress has been made by organisations with six or more staff, whose management committees have been actively involved in the PQASSO process, and which made use of external consultants.
  • "Quality costs - it cannot be achieved on a shoe-string. And organisations must beware that they do not spend too much time on PQASSO, to the detriment of their normal business.”
  • There is significant value in Quality First as a first step for community/ volunteer-based projects who do not have paid staff.
  • Active and ongoing recruitment and training is required to build a pool of facilitators (and replace those who have moved on).
  • There is a need for a coherent approach by organisations funding and contracting with voluntary organisations. Damage can be done by agencies which take a different approach. For example, the Community Legal Service (CLS) requires a special kitemark for delivery of all aspects of legal aid, but does not provide any financial resources to help support voluntary organisations who need to achieve it if they are to be funded as an approved outlet.
  • All funders who want to see quality improvement have to recognise the need to promote quality by selling the benefits. Grants and practical support are crucial.


Making it Work

We havent seen the RSA publication, but have received the following details:

Making it Work is the final report on Project2001. It maps out the original intention, aim, objectives and methodology and reports on the results, which were monitored and evaluated throughout the whole project on a quarterly and annual basis by Charities Evaluation Services.

The report analyses the evidence collected through Project2001 on barriers to learning:

  • Cost
  • Lack of flexible provision from training providers
  • Time
It examines how both the small grants given and the work of the Accreditaion Advisers addressed those barriers and illustrates the whole project with case studies.

The report identifies the evidence of the benefits of learning e.g:

  • increased confidence of volunteers and paid staff 80%
  • more motivated volunteers 61%
  • better quality of customer service 57%
  • improved teamwork 50%

Finally, there are 15 recomendations to a range of stakeholders, such as Learning and Skills Councils, trustees and funders, drawing on the hard evidence produced by the project. The evidence from the project was also used to inform the recommendations of the Workforce Development Plan.


Opening Doors

From the RSA web site: This accreditation guide aims to help voluntary organisations interested in training, and more specifically, accreditation. It will help you to identify training needs within your organisation and explore ways of meeting these. It offers information and guidance on a selection of accreditation routes, and helps you decide which may be the most suitable for your organisation. It identifies support mechanisms to help you implement a programme. It details the kinds of costs involved. It gives an overview of the changing contexts in training and accreditation, and explores organisational quality standards. It contains a glossary of terms, helpful contacts and further reading.

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