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Brunel Academics Call for Confidence Training for Mothers Returning to Work

It's not just an issue of childcare: if more women are to return to work after having children, the Government needs to provide courses in which they can develop confidence, reveals a study conducted by West London's Brunel University, commissioned by the London West Learning and Skills Council. The report found that whilst specific vocational training often daunted women, many gained confidence in their abilities to return to work by progressing slowly through a variety of non-vocational training courses. Access to these kinds of courses will, the academics believe, speed up the process of mothers returning to work.

As Sue Buckingham, who led the team of researchers at Brunel, explains: “This research has offered us a really interesting insight into the factors that affect mothers as they attend training courses. Obviously, the issues of childcare and finance were fairly high up the their agendas, both of which the Government is trying to address. However, there was another major issue that hasn't really been considered.“

“What we found is that, when taking training courses, women had little confidence at the outset, preferring to start with non-vocational courses which didn't have exams. Since many have devoted themselves to being full-time mothers, and only begin training once their children are at school, they are unsure of themselves in a learning environment - put simply, they feel like they've got 'baby-brain'. But once they've done one course, they begin to gain confidence, with many going on to achieve qualifications through accredited courses, which in turn, leads them to start or progress to careers. However, progress was slow.

“We think that, by providing unaccredited short courses, which build confidence, as well as skills, this progress could be speeded up, helping thousands of mothers gain the confidence to retrain for careers which will fit around their childcare requirements, or re-enter the job market quicker. Courses that have demonstrated an ability to do this include family learning, where mothers acquire the skills to help their children with school homework; and sewing, upholstery and personal services, such as massage and hair and beauty, all of which women can do at home.“

As Martin Freedman from the London West Learning and Skills Council, adds: “This research has been fascinating because it's given us an insight into an area that's traditionally quite hard to monitor. Statistics often don't provide a full picture of how women progress because many learners take long gaps between courses according to their children's childcare needs or development. This study has shown how women gradually gain confidence in their abilities over time and through a portfolio of courses. If training and skills development for mothers is going to be effective, the study shows that the importance of courses like family learning needs to be recognised.“