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UfI unveils plan to create millions of new learners
UfI unveils plan to create millions of new learners
UfI is starting to firm up on its plans to revolutionise the way people learn through a new learning network across England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Taking forward the Government's concept of the University for Industry, UfI aims to provide information and advice to 2.5 million people a year, and create demand for up to one million courses and learning packages a year - to be met by the UfI network and existing learning providers.
UfI will be in full operation by Autumn 2000. In the meantime, many of its services will be gradually introduced. This started in April 1999 when UfI took over responsibility for the Government's Learning Direct helpline. The first Learning Centres are currently being piloted. UfI has been seeking suppliers for UfI learning materials and is about to begin a major communications campaign with potential partners who will be involved in the development of the UfI network. By stimulating lifelong learning UfI aims to put people in a better position to get jobs, improve their career prospects and boost business competitiveness.
UfI's development plan was informed by research among individuals and businesses which shows that a radical change in the way learning is delivered is needed. Even though 60 per cent of adults have had no vocational training in the past three years, 75 per cent are either keen to learn or would do so if some of the current barriers which stop people learning were removed. People and businesses wanted to know how learning is relevant to their needs. Businesses in particular want to see immediate benefits. Qualifications are seen as important but people want more flexible ways to learn. People want face-to-face help with learning, if only to get them started and they want affordable learning. Of those interested in learning, over 90 per cent of people would consider using information and communication technology to learn.
"UfI will respond to people's learning needs by creating flexible learning which fits the lifestyles of individuals and the demands of running a business," said Dr Anne Wright, UfI's Chief Executive. "We have published a seven point pledge for learners which will guide everything we do. In addition, our research among individuals and businesses also found that while the name University for Industry has many strengths it will not help our efforts to reach all the people we need to. As a result, we have been researching a new consumer brand that will be used in our marketing efforts," Dr Wright announced.
UfI will develop new ways for people to get impartial information and advice about learning opportunities. Where there are gaps in the provision of learning materials UfI will broker the creation of new ones. Whether people or businesses need basic numeracy and literacy or advanced business management skills, they will be able to use UfI through:
A new Website which will provide online advice, seminars, discussion groups and links into courses and materials, available from Spring 2000.
A network of up to 1,000 Learning Centres, which will be owned and operated by local learning providers - the first pilots opening at the end of this year.
UfI will help people and employers to continue with learning by providing ongoing support, including personal support, contacts with other learners and online help over the Internet. Individual and corporate membership will enable people to track their learning progress, get regular updates on relevant further learning opportunities and try "taster" courses.
UfI's priority areas for the first few years will include information and technology skills, basic literacy and numeracy, skills for small and medium-sized businesses and four business sectors: automotive components; multimedia; environmental technology and services; distributive and retail trades. In addition to these priority areas, UfI will conduct further research in order to respond to new areas of demand.
Key milestones in the development of the UfI network
UfI organisation - HQ in Sheffield and offices in Wales, Northern Ireland and the English regions - established.
Commissioning and endorsement of learning products began (May).
Call for expressions of interest in operating Learning Centres issued (July).
October: issue of first contracts for Learning Centres.
October: first Learning Centres become operational.
Spring: publicity campaign begins; Website operational.
Autumn: national launch; hundreds of Learning Centres open.
March: up to 1,000 centres open.
Around 2.5 million people a year using UfI information sources. 2004
UfI stimulates demand for one million courses and learning packages a year. To be met by UfI and existing learning providers.
These case studies are drawn from a number of UfI-type projects, including the European funded ADAPT projects, which are testing elements of UfI's service.
Karen Roper attends the Minister Community Learning Unit in Kent.
I'm a mature returner to the workforce. I was in education at a middle senior management level and then took a career break to have my children. Increasingly IT is impacting upon work so in order for me to really get back into the workplace, I needed to update my skills. I word process a lot but I'm not terribly good at the other facilities. The centre is really accessible, about two minutes from home. And it's cheap once you've become a member. And here you've got somebody on hand when you've got problems. Sitting in front of the computer for the first time for many people is very frightening. I needed someone to give me that push really and the centre's done that for me. So I've been coming here for three months and can now sit down in front of a PC and turn it on and have a look at e-mail and the Internet. I'm finding loads of information on Websites to contact for various bits of information and I know that I can do that now. I think it'll help me in the job market because immediately you can put it on your CV but more importantly I think it gives you the confidence to actually be able to go along for a position where you know that Information Technology is going to be involved.
Bill Taylor, an operations manager for an engineering plastics company, attends the Valleymedia Learning Centre at the Lee Valley Technopark in North London.
The offer of a subsidised computer and free training is one of those offers you can't refuse. Since the company has always used technology to further its business aims, it's a wonderful opportunity. I attended a previous course here to do with the design of Internet web pages as my Sales and Marketing Director and myself are very keen to more actively market our company on the Internet. We also have a computer network in-house, so we're keen to upgrade that. It's a very small company of about 28 people. Probably 20 of which are production staff. So money for training tends to be a little tight and we have to manage our budgets very carefully. Coming here has enabled me to look at where I want to take the company from an IT standpoint and has also broadened my horizons in terms by learning what's available out there. This business park is local for us and they have the right people and equipment. It has excellent facilities conveniently in one place. The atmosphere is very relaxed, it's informative and generally I think it's an environment in which you can learn. I feel sometimes that classroom based training tends to put pressure on the student to learn but I think if you learn in a more relaxed environment then I think you learn more.
Katherine Chamberlin attends the North East UfI Pilot Project based in Sunderland.
Originally I got involved in the project, because I was a telemarketing manager and did some taster courses in telesales and customer care. After that the project actually contacted me to see if I'd be interested in a flexible management course. While doing that course I actually decided to work at home and start my own business. If you'd asked me 6 months ago whether I would have done that, the answer would have been no way. Learning has actually given me the confidence now that I could probably get up and speak in front of anybody. I learnt an awful lot about technology, especially about the Internet, which has helped me with my business. I can now surf the net and actually get customer contacts. I could never have afforded to actually give up work and go full time to a college. The main advantage is that I can learn when I want to. I can work it around my own work and the job that I'm doing. Next I plan to start a degree course in Psychology, again on a flexible learning plan and I also want to do some more of the Sales and Marketing courses. I can't see myself giving up in the foreseeable future. It's actually stimulated me quite a lot in wanting to learn. I would say to anyone go for it because it's certainly worth it. Even from the point of view of just the mental stimulation, the fact that you're actually learning something. The amount that you get out of it possibly could change your life, you don't know.