As Training Providers nationally report a potential loss of 80% of predicted starts during the Spring period as a result of the Covid-19 crisis (FE Week 22 May 2020), Exeter College is able to share positive news, having welcomed new intakes of Apprentices in Digital Marketing, Project Management, Customer Service, Management and Data Analytics.
Following a virtual meeting with government ministers this week, the College also reports exceptional retention rates as the local business community rallies to support Apprentices. Mike Blakeley, Director of Apprenticeships and Employer Engagement, said, “To see 95% of our planned Apprenticeship starts come to fruition despite all of the challenges of lockdown, shows clearly that our employer partners continue to see the value of Apprenticeship training. We know that our region is a huge supporter of Apprenticeship training, with Exeter having achieved City of Apprenticeships earlier this year, and it is a really positive sign that in face of global challenge Apprenticeships in the region remain high on the agenda.”
“Exeter College is delighted to welcome Data Analyst Apprentices from our new employer partner EDF. The fact that the Data Analyst programme has been able to start despite the challenges of lockdown shows the strength of our partnership and the positive approach adopted by both parties. This is our first truly national programme with learners in the South West, South East and North East all participating fully.”
Filomena La Porta, Data Skills Squad lead at EDF said, “People are at the heart of fully realising the value of data and data skills are precious and scarce. It’s amazing to see that in our company there is talent rising to the challenge of learning new skills and we are delighted to be able to support their development over two years in partnership with Exeter College. It is a great success story that the Data Analyst Apprenticeship has gone ahead as scheduled, despite the challenges of COVID. Exeter College have taken on the challenge of remote learning, ensuring a real partnership at every step of the way.”
The new cohort of Data Analyst Apprentices is led by Steve Mariadas, Digital and Data Lead at Exeter College and CEO of the new South West Institute of Technology, which is backing a new Digital and Data Centre which is being built on the Exeter College site. Reflecting on the challenge of launching new programmes during lockdown Steve said, “It has been an interesting time for us all, but the College’s investment in digital skills meant that staff were well placed to implement the remote learning required which enabled the Apprentices to begin their programmes as planned and with minimal disruption despite lockdown. Our concerns are always to offer high quality teaching and learning, through a safe online learning environment.”
As a Microsoft Showcase College, and having undergone a digital transformation, teaching staff have been able to quickly adapt to the challenges thrown up by the Covid-19 lockdown. Many of the staff already hold Microsoft Innovative Educator badges and the College’s IT and Digital Innovations teams have worked hard over recent years to embed Microsoft technologies into everyday practice across the College. It has also allowed the staff to host a series of virtual open events to support school leavers, and secure talent for the new academic year starting in September. Online interactive job seeking sessions have also allowed the Apprenticeship Team to match individuals who have come forward for the hundred-plus employer vacancies currently advertised with the College.
Having reached the finals of the prestigious AoC Beacon Awards on Thursday 4th June, in The City and Guilds Employer Engagement category, the College cites its strong community network as one of the key factors in weathering the current storm. Mike Blakeley said, “The delivery of programmes at this time has been seen as a key tool in employee welfare and support. Levels of employer satisfaction are exceptionally high regarding learning delivery. Looking to the future we know that given the current economic climate there are challenges ahead, but we believe that the strong partnerships and reputation we have of partnering with employers will enable us to help them through this time, and in turn, find employment for our applying Apprentices.
“With the digital expertise the College has in place, and our ongoing investment in skills development and new premises, our Apprentices and our employer partners are exceptionally well placed to be at the centre of the Skills Revolution.”