How can FE colleges support business recovery? Here, Matt Tudor, Director of Business Development, Marketing and IT at Bridgwater & Taunton College looks at the initiatives undertaken at the college during lockdown to ensure students are business-ready:
“What is the new ‘normal’? is a phrase we keep hearing used almost as a comparison between our life three months ago to what we now consider impacting on our future.
“For businesses of all sectors and sizes including Further Education Colleges, working through these challenges in a crisis has been nothing but a sign of sheer strength and resilience to overcome obstacles far beyond what we would ever imagine.
“Although as a community we’re yearning for ‘business as usual’, it’s the adaptive and instinctive nature of our species during a crisis that will innovate and reinvent what our future industries and occupations develop into. The very idea of which, brings newfound skills and opportunities for businesses venturing into new markets; looking to restore prosperity and growth back into our economy.
“All over the country, students have had their learning experiences disrupted. Exams have been cancelled and the feeling of deflation is fertile.
“By putting students at the heart of what we do, Bridgwater & Taunton College will maintain our strengths and increase our learning opportunities by ensuring our thousands of students reach their potential and continue to build confidence, enthusiasm for learning and skills for life – all of which are translated in the workplace.
“We’ve supported students with the continuity of teaching and learning throughout the pandemic, investing in £600,000 of digital technology to ensure our students are continuing to receive the highest level of education they possibly can. Teaching takes place through virtual classrooms and students are proactively embracing a new dimension to learning.
“With more and more businesses adapting to the working from home scenario, preparing the next generation to work at this digital capacity, increases their skillset and levels of maturity that could be paramount to their futures in industry or higher education.
“Enrolments onto our adult education programmes has increased over 100% YTD with our Distance Learning provision offering free level 2 courses to adults aged 19+ up across England. The increased appetite for these courses has come as an option for businesses to up-skill or retrain existing employees on various skills that contribute to towards their CPD and best industry practice.
“With daily updates from Government continuing, our business development team is working closely with our employers to ensure their business is fully supported on apprenticeships and training. We’re proud to see our employer partners working hard to support their apprentices during these difficult times, recognising the essential skills they bring to business.
“Whether working from home or in the workplace, businesses are still needing to increase productivity, and our apprenticeship recruitment team is working with them to ensure candidates are prepared for different interview techniques. College processes have also been streamlined to ensure digital sign-ups and Apprenticeship starts are uniquely possible.
“#WorkingTogether webinars have also been developed as a series of live Q&A webinars designed to be responsive on various education and training topics and delivered to industry.
“Our curriculum teams have and continue to develop apprenticeship programmes that are delivered 100% remotely, with our next Level 4 project management cohort starting this summer and many of our core business apprenticeships available to enrol on immediately.
“The changing landscape is apparent and it’s the investment of education and training the next generation that will help us prosper into newfound industries, occupations and ways of learning from one another.”