Liverpool City Region Test and Learn

Liverpool City Region Combined Authority have supported a programme of Test and Learn pilots to drive innovation in the delivery of adult skills

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Using devolved Adult Education Budget (AEB) flexibilities, Liverpool City Region Combined Authority (LCRCA) have supported a programme of Test and Learn pilots to drive innovation in the delivery of adult skills. They are focused on addressing market failures in adult skills provision, whether through qualification structures, funding rule or funding limitations. The aim of Test and Learn is to increase adult participation in learning, raise attainment and improve social mobility in the Liverpool City Region. Test and Learn establishes a space for providers to trial non-accredited provision as a means to develop new learning programmes and forms of delivery.

Test and Learn provides space to be innovative and experiment without the threat of failure. Flexibility to focus on local skills gaps and model new approaches, it is vital to improving the efficacy of the local skills system.

Through the Workers’ Educational Association (WEA), Test and Learn has been used to fund introductory courses for people interested in careers as maternity support workers. Building on materials developed by the WEA with Liverpool Women’s Hospital that create progression pathways for maternity support workers towards level 3 qualifications, the pilot has funded level 1 and level 2 courses for local residents interested in a career as maternity support worker. A small group of eight learners, all unemployed women, were involved in the pilot delivered over 25 hours.

The primary aim of the project has been to increase the number of BAME entrants into maternity support roles, but has a wider application for existing workers in the NHS and in childcare jobs to retrain and gain qualifications to apply for practitioner jobs. The project has demonstrated the effectiveness of providing short courses within a progression pathway to help individuals to gain confidence and the foundations needed to develop in-work skills.

The Test and Learn provision allowed a number of students to navigate into engineering roles that they would have otherwise struggled to find. The short course provision provides the flexibility needed for people to build confidence and change careers into high demand sectors. 

Riverside College has also used LCRCA Test and Learn to offer unitised short courses in high demand engineering skills. The pilot course was undertaken by a group of 12 employed people aiming to develop new technical skills or make a career change. The units provide a flexible way to explore new skills without the commitment of signing onto a two-year course. The offer included CAD /CAM, programme logic control, green power maintenance and an introduction to welding techniques, that employers identified as training shortage areas. For people employed in engineering operative roles, the training provides a path to technical skills and career advancement. For employers, the training enables them to diversify their skills base, offering potential time and cost savings in areas, such as CAD, that they may have outsourced.

The project shows how flexible provision that addresses skills demand can aid both individual progression and address labour supply issues for business.