As part of FE Week’s webinar series, Corndel’s CEO, Sean Williams, was invited to be a Panelist discussing the Further Education sector’s response to the pandemic and how it is preparing for the future.
Sean was joined by Mark Dawe from the Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP), Dominic Gill from Intequal and Brenda McLeish from Learning Curve Group.
The training sector knows the huge part it will need to play in a successful recovery. Our CEO, Sean Williams, explained on the webinar, ‘we need to quickly reskill and connect people back into new jobs. We have to ensure we don’t make the same mistakes as we did in the 1980s, when large groups of the population were condemned to long-term unemployment. We are uniquely placed as a sector to offer people this opportunity.’
To do this, there was general acknowledgement that the Government could be doing more to champion the sector, knowing that it is a key part of the recovery. Challenges exist around funding, now that there is a need to reskill and upskill people whose jobs are redundant from industries that no longer exist due to the pandemic. The sector eagerly awaits the new budget announcements in August.
Sean shared the areas that Corndel has focused on in response to the challenges created by this pandemic:
- The need to redesign face-to-face interaction for online. Not simply moving what was offline onto an online environment, but redesigning things like a one-day launch workshop in a training room, so that it can work in the right way online. This may mean breaking it down into several bite-sized chunks, for example. This has only been possible by sharing and working with our learners and employers.
- Supporting our employers to stay connected with furloughed workers and using this time as an opportunity to reskill and upskill people, in preparation for their return to an existing or new role. We shared how we have used the flexibilities within the funding scheme to offer outplacement support for learners who have been made redundant, so that they can continue their learning whilst focusing on finding a new role.
Mark Dawes from AELP praised the progress the sector had made in transitioning to remote provision. All training providers noted consistent themes around the need to heavily support learners so that they could successfully work and learn from home, including: Maintaining one-to-one support using digital tools; Sharing a range of learning resources with learners, employers and other FE institutions and colleges; Innovating to keep learners motivated; The resilience learners have displayed throughout this period and their motivation to keep studying.
There are things that should be maintained in the post-pandemic era, including remote progress reviews, one-to-one support delivered remotely and the option for continued remote delivery of full programmes where possible. Training providers noted that in some instances’ learners had been more engaged adopting remote channels than they had previously been when classroom based. ‘The Coronavirus pandemic has been a catalyst for innovation and change within this sector. It has been an extremely challenging time for everyone, but some of the efficiencies, such as better working practices and encouragement of innovative ways to engage learners and deliver programmes, are things we will strive to maintain.’ Sean concluded.
Over the coming months the sector’s focus will be on maintaining a quality provision, whilst helping to navigate delivery of a more face-to-face approach safely for employers and institutions that require this. Providers are very keen to work together, sharing learnings and best-practice to support learners and employers to upskill and reskill workers and aid our national recovery.