Learning, soft skills and community regeneration: a case study analysis
Cornwall, Robert John.
The focus of this study is to reflect critically on current policy and practice concerning social exclusion with a view to contributing ideas to improve the lives of people who inhabit our most disadvantaged communities. Three main arguments are developed. Firstly, that engagement in lifelong learning is now central to ensuring social inclusion and disposition and motivation to learn, as well as the capacity to benefit fully from the learning experience are influenced significantly by cognitive, conative and interpersonal skills. These are more widely known as soft skills. Secondly that these soft skills remain little understood, particularly among managers and staff of community based regeneration agencies. Finally, this lack of understanding results in inadequate community based provision to ensure that residents develop the necessary disposition, motivation and resilience to enable them to learn their way out of social exclusion. A case study involving participant observation was conducted in a disadvantaged community in the south Wales Valleys. The study found that engagement in lifelong learning is now essential to ensure social inclusion and residents require a formidable portfolio of skills to learn their way out of social exclusion. The new policy emphasis on residents becoming co-responsible and empowered citizens places a greater significance on soft skills within the context of learning for health and well being, learning for socially active citizenship and learning for economically active citizenship. Despite this, soft skills were little understood among community regenerators and community based learning and support provision to enable residents to acquire soft skills was inadequate. Other policy and practical impediments to soft skills development were found and these, together with the implications for national policies to ensure social inclusion and more importantly the residents of our most disadvantaged communities are discussed.
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