Most people learn for a purpose. Outcomes from learning are important to learners and should be important to learning providers. Although tracking outcomes have not always been required in the past, providers are increasingly expected to know the destinations of their learners. With the recent government announcement that it is considering how funding can be more strongly linked to outcomes in the future, it is important that providers now establish the means to track destinations.
As well as meeting the needs of learners and funders there are benefits to providers as destination data can inform the evolution of provision, support equalities analyses and provide robust quantitative evidence which proves the value of learning when lobbying for funding. However, we recognise that tracking learner destinations is challenging. It requires maintaining links with learners after they have left provision, securing their cooperation in revealing their destinations, systems for processing and storing destinations data and sometimes corroborating this data with third parties such as employers.
This piece of work was commissioned by the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills to explore how providers are already tracking learners’ destinations, and to try and understand the issues facing providers. Following this, 15 providers took part in a trial which involved tracking learners by telephone, post and electronic methods. The result of the work is this guide to tracking learners’ destinations, which will be of interest to providers who want to develop or extend learner destination tracking. It will also be of interest to policy makers, funders and other stakeholders wishing to know more about the process of destination tracking. NIACE believes that tracking the destination of learners can be challenging, but with imaginative, contextualised approaches implemented in a systematic manner, it will be a valuable tool. We recommend a mixed-method approach through which a provider successively uses several of the methods described in this guide.
Destination tracking is continuously evolving. The guide provides a snapshot of current approaches. These will evolve further; automated digital approaches and greater data sharing between organisations working in partnership could considerably improve results and make tracking more affordable. But providers must not wait for these developments. They must endeavour to start tracking all their learners from now on.