Aptem Product Feature: Customisation – the ability to change the onboarding experience per programme.

Programme flexibility is essential in ensuring learners’ individual needs are met. That’s why Aptem has in-built customisation available, which gives you the ability to customise the onboarding and learner experience per programme.

To ensure that you can deliver the best possible learner experience, Aptem has simplified the process of creating customisable onboarding processes, allowing you to create changes that best suit each programme at the click of a button.

Learner experience doesn’t start with learning delivery; the entire learner journey should consist of considered interactions that keep the learner engagement throughout the entire process. The first of these interactions, with you as a provider, is the enrolment experience. 

Aptem allows you to design each aspect of the enrolment experience, from beginning to end. The first interaction learners have with the system should be clear and succinct, and Aptem allows you to present an initial page that is not overloaded with information, is manageable and most importantly does not force a learner into form-filling before they’ve had a chance to understand who you are as an organisation and what you provide. This helps to prevent learner disengagement and ensures your first interaction with the learner is informative and positive.

Data

Data is an essential aspect of programme building and so form-filling will form a significant part of learner onboarding. However, it can be done in a way that encourages participation and reduces the amount of time learners need to spend on what can sometimes be a fairly arduous task. Aptem allows you to customise forms easily so they are grouped into sections and have further relevant questions revealed using case logic. This reduces the need for learners to use the ‘not applicable’ option, making the process more streamlined and accessible. We suggest that forms are used sparingly and are customised to capture only the datapoints you need and keep forms streamlined. Additionally, don’t end the onboarding experience with a form, but keep them in the middle of the onboarding journey.

Skills and assessment

During onboarding, there is often a need to assess the starting knowledge of a learner to understand what level of apprenticeship they may need, or to understand eligibility. This is commonly done using a skill scan graded against the Knowledge, Skills and Behaviours from the Standard. Often these skill scans are not accessible due to the language or grading system used. This can appear to be arbitrary to a new learner who may not have been exposed to this type of grading system before. It’s important that when creating an assessment of skills you customise it to ensure it is relatable to your target learners. At this stage of onboarding we suggest you use questions within the self-assessment, utilising the Skills Scan technology to find out more about the learner and their job role, and then complete the full KSB assessment at a later stage.

Similarly, many onboarding programmes require an initial assessment, which may be a functional skills assessment or a Cognassist assessment. Often learners are presented with a link to the assessment with no additional information about it or why they need to complete it. It’s important to customise the initial assessment experience to maintain learner engagement. One way this can be done in Aptem is to edit the page so it shows an overview of what the assessment is, what it entails, an estimated completion time, the reason it’s important and the information that you, the provider will gain from the learner completing the assessment. This helps the learner to feel part of the on-boarding process which increases participation rates, morale and engagement.

Onboarding is often your first interaction with a learner and is the first opportunity to provide a positive learner experience. Customisation can help you curate an experience that is engaging, interactive and ensures that the learner journey is collaborative and successful.

 

 

 

Data Masterclass output – Moving away from being Data Rich Insight Poor

Mark Abrahams, Head of Research at Aptem, joined Kerry Boffey from the Fellowship of Inspection Nominees (FIN) to host a Data masterclass for 23 organisations. The focus of the session was how to move away from being a ‘Data Rich Insight Poor’ (DRIP). Most of the participants were relying on Excel to process, analyse and present data, with some moving towards Tableau or PowerBI. The merits of these and other analytics tools were discussed.

Organisations worked through using data to support their Covid story, identifying the types of data they needed to support their statements for regulatory bodies like Ofsted. While most organisations are easily able to articulate what actions they have taken, data provides evidence of the impact of the action taken.

A core focus of the session was the learner journey and the importance of building a story around the data that is collected. Mark shared a diagram that walked organisations through the data points that are captured along the route and asked “what’s missing?” Together, organisations discussed the business questions they need to ask. The importance of triangulation was presented to ensure claims are evidenced using robust, accurate data.

Operational challenges were worked through across a range of perspectives including learners, tutors, quality and compliance and finance. Solutions using data to identify and solve organisational pain points such as identifying learners at risk, marking behaviours of tutors, patterns of tutor behaviour – both positive and negative – and past, current and future performance, were presented and worked through.

Two data exercises were undertaken by participants to test their learnings on dummy data. A discussion followed about the importance of data visualisation and which tools to use for data analysis and presentation. Tips were given on how to present data in a consumable format, which metrics were important, and how to automate to reduce manual effort and errors. The session ended with the value of benchmarking data, and the importance of using freely available tools such as the Aptem Intelligence Dashboard, to identify growth areas, opportunities and threats at an organisational level.

Feedback from this masterclass was extremely positive:

· “The training was comprehensive and clear. Detailed slides to continue to develop as an organisation from the training” Real Skills Training Ltd.

· “Very informative, firm, and good fun – if stats can ever be that!” Professor Christine White, De Montfort University.

· “Short but packed with information, interactive, networked with others. Useful with lots of take-away thoughts” Jenny Scrivens, Achieve Training.

Aptem, in partnership with FIN, runs a range of thought-leadership masterclasses throughout the year. These masterclasses are available to all Aptem customers at a discounted rate. Customers are contacted in advance of these sessions via email.

Employability and Skills: Plan for Jobs

The UK government has introduced an array of initiatives around employability and skills. Over the past year, and  as a result of the pandemic, it produced its Plan for Jobs, followed swiftly by the Skills for Jobs white paper, which  brings together long-term policy objectives with more localised and targeted support to manage the current crisis. 

The speed of policy change can be hard to navigate, so we have put together an ‘at a glance’ guide to the keynote policies.

Plan for Jobs

 WHP JETS 

Launched in October 2020, JETS (Job Entry Targeted Support) is aimed at helping individuals who have lost their jobs during the pandemic.                                                                                                                                                                         

Key features are:

 Provides light employability support that includes things like transferable skills analysis, CV writing, job search, interview skills, self-efficacy and confidence-building in the post-pandemic environment. Participants will receive 182 days of continuous support.

 For participants of working age who are receiving benefits and motivated to find work.

Participants must be of working age, in receipt of universal credit or new style JSA, have been unemployed for 13 weeks or more, have been receiving benefits for 13 weeks or more and are not on any other DWP scheme.

Participants will have travel costs covered to any WHP JETS related appointments and childcare costs if it poses as a barrier to the participant entering employment within the first month of attendance.

Backed by £238 million investment from the government and delivered in partnership with the Shaw Trust.

Kickstart 

Officially opened to applications in September 2020, Kickstart is an employability scheme that provides 6-month placements of 25 hours per week for 16-24-year-olds in receipt of Universal Credit. 

Key details are:

It provides funding for employers to offer work placements, and it covers 100% of the National Minimum Wage for the period of the placement, associated employer National Insurance and pension contributions, and employer minimum automatic enrolment contributions. Employers can top up this wage.

Employers will also receive £1500 to help pay for training, uniforms and other set up costs.

Backed by £2 billion of public funding.

Employers can either apply directly or through a Kickstart Gateway (a group of employers) already working with the Kickstart Scheme.

Young people will be recruited through Jobcentre Plus.

Participants will be paid the national minimum wage or the national living wage depending on their age.

Employers can spread the start date of the job placements up until the end of December 2021.

Initially open until December 2021.

 Restart 

Launched in November 2020, Restart is a £2.9 billion scheme managed by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) that provides up to 12 months of tailored support for people who have been out of work for at least 12 months and may need additional support. 

Key features are:

The scheme will last for three years and will be delivered by providers (initially Tier 1 providers) through the Commercial Agreement for Employment and Health Related Services framework (CAEHRS).

For participants in receipt of Universal Credit and have been out of work for 12 months

Referrals will be made through work coaches.

The scheme is expected to benefit around one million individuals, who will get personalised support depending on identified need.

It will be delivered on a payment by results basis, incentivising providers to prioritise outcomes.

The DWP has awarded contracts and the scheme will go live in Summer 2021.

  Apprenticeship upgrade – The Plan for Jobs announced new support for apprenticeships. 

These are:

£3000 employer payment for each new apprentice they take on between 1st April and 30th September 2021.

This funding is in addition to existing payments for 16-18-year-olds, people with  disabilities or young people leaving care.

It is possible to progress from Kickstart to an apprenticeship.

The employer needs to pay the National Minimum Wage (or more) and possible 5% of training and assessment costs depending on the size of the business.

T Levels  

T Levels are the skills equivalent of three A Levels, and they offer a mix of classroom learning and an industry placement of around 45 days. Three T Levels are currently available at selected schools, colleges and other providers in England. A further seven will be available in 2022-3.

Learners can progress from T Levels to employment, an apprenticeship or higher education.

In the Plan for Jobs, financial incentives of up to £750 are available for providers in selected regions for the 2020 to 2021 academic year

The Role of Apprenticeships in Lifelong Learning

In a constantly shifting employment landscape, lifelong learning is essential. Not just to fill emerging job roles, but to ensure long and fulfilling careers. Apprenticeships offer an effective model to encourage and support lifelong learning.

Facilitating lifelong learning

Futurist Alvin Toffler, celebrated author of Future Shock, once said: “The illiterate of the future are not those who can’t read or write but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.”

To thrive in today’s uncertain world we all need to be committed to learning, unlearning and relearning. To prepare for success, it’s important to develop a sense of self-direction, metacognitive awareness and a positive attitude towards lifelong learning. Certain characteristics of the apprenticeship model facilitate the development of these attributes.

Metacognitive awareness is being aware of how you think and learn. It enables learners to be more mindful of what and how they are learning, and how the same knowledge or approach may be applied in other situations. Self-direction is facilitated by recognising an end goal that can provide both motivation and a sense of responsibility to propel oneself towards it. Giving learners a level of autonomy and responsibility over their progress helps to develop these faculties.

As the aim of an apprenticeship is to facilitate movement into a permanent job role, motivation is intrinsically built into the model. Earning while you learn is another motivator, giving apprentices the satisfaction that comes from being rewarded from working hard, and seeing their learning being rewarded by progressing into a higher-paid position at the end of their apprenticeship. And having to manage learning alongside working gives apprentices a degree of autonomy and responsibility for their own success.

Apprenticeships are expansive and develop the whole person, not just job-specific skills. Apprentices are taken on a journey from being a novice to becoming an expert, as well as gaining a sense of curiosity, discovery and self-improvement – all of which engender a positive disposition towards lifelong learning.

Adult apprenticeships: not just for young people

Contrary to popular perception, there is no upper age limit for undertaking an apprenticeship. Anyone over the age of 16 and not in full-time education is eligible to become an apprentice.

There is a historic association of apprenticeships with young people of school-leaving age. However, there is plenty of evidence to show that this model can also be beneficial for adults. Apprenticeships could be revisited over the course of a career as a way to transition jobs, or to support unemployed people back into work.

Recognising this, Barclays has established a Lifelong Learning Apprenticeship to “help adults seeking employment after a period out of work and to create a pipeline of older recruits to build a workforce demographic that is diverse and reflects the make-up of Barclays’ customer base.” The programme targets anyone over the age of 24 who has been out of work for 12 months or more, and requires no prior experience in banking. After a three-week pre-employment course, successful candidates go on to complete a 12- to 18-month apprenticeship delivering financial services in-branch or over the phone. From there, apprentices are able to gain banking qualifications through the Chartered Banker Institute and progress to more senior roles.

The programme has been running since 2015, testament to its success as a model to support adults, particularly the longer-term unemployed, back into employment.

The Lifetime Skills Guarantee

The Lifetime Skills Guarantee was launched by Prime Minister Boris Johnson in September 2020 and is an attempt to provide adults with skills that are valued by employers and the chance to study flexibly, in a time and place that suits them. The Prime Minister’s promised reforms include a commitment to increasing apprenticeship opportunities, making the apprenticeship structure more flexible, and increasing funding for SMEs taking on apprentices.

Commenting on the new Guarantee, Alan Hiddleston, Director of Corporate Learning at D2L, said: “The past year has proven that lifelong learning is vital, and workers need to be better equipped with the skills for tomorrow. Looking ahead, our economy will require real change – a change of attitudes and indeed, culture. The way in which we value, deliver and measure learning will also need to shift, with increased collaboration between education institutions and corporate learning.”

Sarah Kirby, Group Head of Organisation Design & HR Strategy at Zurich Insurance Company Ltd, commented that this goes some way to solving a key challenge with the Apprenticeship Levy: “The main hurdle with the Levy in the UK is that the criteria are too narrow and onerous, which addresses only a skills gap in one’s current role. In the context of the Future of Work, we should be thinking beyond school leavers and considering people at all stages of their careers.”

Apprenticeships represent collaboration between formal learning providers and businesses. Unlike other forms of learning, an apprentice is working towards guaranteed paid work. They are also being paid throughout the learning process. This makes apprenticeships the most sensible route to support people to change careers or move out of unemployment, two particular challenges facing the country as we navigate both coronavirus and the fourth industrial revolution.

What’s more, five years after completion, the average Higher Technical Apprentice earns more than the average graduate. This is one of the motivations for the government’s move to facilitating lifelong learning: apprenticeships offer opportunities that are obscured by the false dichotomy in public imagination between the idea of “practical” versus “academic” education.

Apprenticeships and the fourth industrial revolution

Traditional education cannot adapt fast enough to equip students with the knowledge, skills and experience they need to operate newly emerging technologies and fulfil emerging business needs – but apprenticeships can.

Reskilling through apprenticeships is a way to fill the skills gaps that will occur in the near and longer-term future, including those that we may not yet have predicted, or are not yet capable of preparing for.

We know that the jobs landscape will continue to change as technology advances. The apprenticeship model offers the perfect tool to facilitate collaboration between employers and learning providers to ensure that these gaps continue to be addressed. What’s more, apprenticeships can also ensure that workers of all ages and at all stages in their careers have the opportunity to transition into emerging fields of work, without taking on the huge risk and financial burden of retraining at a university.

In this way, apprenticeships support lifelong learning while offering a solution to solve both the skills gaps and unemployment.

Lifetime and Aptem: Sharing the selection process

The methodology involved in Lifetime Training’s procurement of an apprenticeship delivery platform

In March 2021, following a year long procurement process, Lifetime, the largest training provider in the UK, signed up to the award-winning end-to-end platform, Aptem, to deliver its apprenticeships and Kickstart programmes.

Lifetime has built a strong reputation for delivering award-winning training programmes to 20,000 learners a year. As you would expect from a company with this reputation its approach to procuring a new system was robust, methodical and highly detailed. The process involved a year long consultation period, over 100 hours of pre-contract sessions, and a three-stage approach, as it sought to replace its proprietary systems with an ‘all in one place’ apprenticeship and vocational training delivery platform, to manage all aspects of its programmes. 

Key to this successful approach was a small group of senior level, highly knowledgeable people, on both sides of the partnership, who stayed with the project throughout.

“Right from the start it became clear that we needed a system which would both simplify and enhance the learning experience for our learners. We needed something flexible, that we could customise for our needs and maintain our unique, high-quality curriculum and training delivery model. Absolutely key to our selection was finding a company who we could create a genuine partnership with.” Mark Denton, IT and Learning Technologies Director.

Stage one: Initial engagement

The process for Lifetime was collaborative across a number of departments and they kept asking themselves ‘what are the problems we are trying to fix’. It commenced with a series of detailed deep dives into all aspects of the system, from pre-enrolment, through ILR, funding, the learner journey and more. Every area of the system was walked through in detail. All sessions were recorded and the team at Lifetime frequently went back through these recordings to confirm their understanding.

A future-proof system

A critical requirement from any system was that it met Lifetime’s aspirational development goals over the next five years. Aptem’s roadmaps closely aligned with Lifetime’s requirements. The Aptem team’s approach to problem solving was also a primary reason for selection. “Their solution to handling multiple programmes through their sub-programme solution, which went live recently, was a great example of this.” Mark Denton,  IT and Learning Technologies Director.

Stage two: The discovery phase

The discovery phase involved a set of very detailed workshops where the project team from Aptem and Lifetime walked through and understood Lifetime’s various business processes, before recommending a solution and way of working using Aptem. 

The team remained consistent throughout this period, so the learnings gained over the previous months were not lost. This was particularly important as the stakeholder group broadened out. “The discovery phase was very much about our team at Aptem understanding Lifetime’s business processes and how their existing systems work, so that we could ensure that our system not only replicated but went a stage further,” explains Shaun Elliott, Product Director at Aptem. “This phased implementation allowed us to make recommendations to Lifetime about how to get the most out of the product, to fulfil their organisational requirements and objectives.”

A great example of this was the immediate requirement for Lifetime to use the system to support Kickstart in quarter one 2021. Aptem already has an inbuilt product to support the major employability contracts including Kickstart, so Lifetime was able to access it and start delivering Kickstart placements for young people.

A phased implementation

During this phase, a group of Lifetime learners commenced their programmes using Aptem. This implementation was supported by a dedicated Project Manager at Aptem alongside the Implementation Consultant.

Aptem received great feedback from Lifetime’s coaches and their learners during this discovery phase.

“Great system, learners have liked it. It’s easy and quick to use. It flows well and is easy to navigate.” Sharath, Coach.

“Easy to use, user friendly, and makes coaches lives easier.” Kirsty, Coach.

“I like the fact that our view is the same as the learners and you can see how long they spend on activities.” Tom, Coach.

Stage three: Roll out

Lifetime has now entered a phased roll out plan for the majority of their learners that is due to complete by the end of 2021,. Using a ‘train the trainer’ approach, supported by bespoke documentation, dedicated trainers at Lifetime are disseminating information about Aptem through the business.

Key to this partnership has been the collaborative approach throughout the procurement process. “This has been a consultative approach. Aptem really sought to understand our business, our processes, our products, and provide a solution that works for us both now and in the future. We have been delighted by the feedback received from learners and tutors during the phased implementation. We look forward to continuing to work in partnership with Aptem for many years.” Carl Cornish, Chief Operating Officer.

Employability and skills: Skills for Jobs

The UK government has introduced an array of initiatives around employability and skills. Over the past year, and as a result of the pandemic, it produced its Plan for Jobs, followed swiftly by the Skills for Jobs white paper, which brings together long-term policy objectives with more localised and targeted support to manage the current crisis. 

The speed of policy change can be hard to navigate, so we have put together an ‘at a glance’ guide to the keynote policies.

Skills for Jobs

Skills for Jobs is a white paper, meaning that the measures are draft policies in preparation for legislation. That means the detail is yet to come. However, it puts employers at the centre of technical skills delivery. 

Here are the core areas the report covers: 

  Lifelong Loan Entitlement 

•  Intended to echo provision of loans for degrees 

• Equivalent of four years, post-18 education. 

• Flexible, and available for a variety of skills training options.

  Apprenticeships

• Support more people into apprenticeships. 

• Make them work in more sectors and allow levy-payers to transfer funds. 

• Address fall in apprenticeships among non-levy payers. 

• 2021-2 £2.5 billion to support apprenticeships. 

• Flexible on the job training across multiple employers in a sector. 

• Front loading training, accrediting of prior learning and experience, better routes of progression from traineeships and T levels to apprenticeships. 

 • Identify and prioritise most successful and necessary apprenticeships.

    Traineeships 

Plans to link to apprenticeships in growth sectors in construction and digital. The scheme will last for three years and will be delivered by providers (initially Tier 1 providers) through the Commercial Agreement for Employment and Health Related Services framework (CAEHRS).

Maths, English and digital training 

• Plan to focus on access for SEND people, those with Education, Health and Care Plans and English for migrants.

Technical skills 

 Expanding Institutes of Technology to increase higher-level qualifications in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM). Twelve in existence, eight more planned for agreement in summer 2021. • Continue to roll out T Levels, with a review to see how they can be more effective.

• Level 3 advanced technical qualifications to be reduced in number and aligned to T Levels.

• Reform higher technical education, so that L4/5 based on employer-led standards. 

• Clear progression routes for higher technical qualifications, backed by metrics for progression outcomes.

• Employer-led digital bootcamps – £8 million for employer-led short training courses lasting 12-16 weeks. First areas for delivery are West Midlands, Greater Manchester/Lancashire, Liverpool City Region, West Yorkshire, East Midlands, and the South West.

Adult education

• £2.5 billion National Skills Fund to help reverse decline in adult education.

• As part of Lifetime Skills Guarantee, any adult can access a L3 fully-funded course.

• National Skills Fund – £3.5 billion, including £95 million in 2021-2 for adults to receive L3 qualification.

  Skills infrastructure 

• Government will fund the High-Value Manufacturing Catapult’s ‘Skills Value Chain’, which assesses skills needs in manufacturing and delivers programmes of study for providers. It also supports SMEs.

• Local Skills Improvement Plans will shape provision around local labour market needs. Piloted in Trailblazer local areas. Strategic funding available from 2021/22 for colleges to reshape provision as agreed with employers.

• Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education lead alignment of majority of post16 technical education with employer-led standards. Call for evidence as to whether L2 can be employer-aligned and made more suitable for SEND learners.

• College Business Centres – proposals for these to be invited through the Strategic Development Fund.

• Move to multi-year funding, strengthen governance of colleges and new ministerial power of intervention for non-effective delivery or non-delivery of local skills needs.

• Funding from 2022 to test flexible and modular learning.

Beyond the soundbites. New white paper explores why skills matter individuals, the economy and society.

A white paper published this week by Aptem says that skills need more attention and funding in UK government policymaking.

The paper, called What is to be done about the skills deficit? emerged from a webinar hosted and presented by Dr Deborah Talbot, Education and Employment Editor at Aptem, and Dr Fiona Aldridge, Director for Policy & Research at the Learning & Work Institute (L&W), in March 2021. It aimed to catalogue the core reasons why skills matter beyond the soundbites and why skills should be at the heart of government policymaking.

The white paper outlines the state of skills through a range of statistical data and outlines the three ways skills matter to individuals and the economy: business growth, economic productivity, and social justice/social mobility.

The key takeaways from the paper are that:

  • The uneasy dynamic of skills versus academic education has been endemic in the UK because of the structure of education and class contexts. However, both vocational and academic education include elements of skills training and academic learning.
  • The skills deficit is entrenched in the UK, with 40% of workers either under or overqualified for their jobs, 60% of employers saying they cannot attract employees with the skills they need and 11.7 million people in the UK lacking essential digital skills.
  • Business, particularly in the innovation and technology sectors, cannot grow unless there are sufficient skills in the UK. However, the country is still impeded by high numbers of unskilled workers, constraints on immigration and regional economic disparities.
  • Skills raise productivity levels which have a direct impact on economic growth and is intrinsically linked to what L&W call the ‘five pillars of productivity’. However, research points to a need to improve the labour market alongside skills training.
  • Skills help social mobility by offering better life chances and wages. These individual benefits impact community wellbeing and the economy through increased spending power. Skills are essential to a vision of inclusive citizenship in economic growth.

While the white paper recognises the gains of recent apprenticeship policy, the Plan for Jobs and the aspirations of the Skills for Jobs white paper, it argues that there is a policy and funding mismatch between the needs of the UK and the policies currently in process.

Moreover, it proposes we need better data to both understand the gains to the economy and individuals by enhancing skills training but also what kinds of skills training is needed.

By publishing this white paper, MWS Technology hope to make the argument that skills should be at the heart of government policy and business planning:

“…in many respects, both ideologically and in financial commitment, skills still occupy a marginal place in government plans. If the UK is to survive and thrive, that tendency needs to change, and fast. Education and skills need to be central to government plans, backed by better data to truly understand the value that skills bring.

“…as there is no ideological imperative behind not investing in education and skills, the problem may simply be an under appreciation of why skills matter. Hopefully, this white paper will help to address this gap.”

Richard Alberg, CEO of Aptem, said:

“We delighted to publish this thought leadership white paper on what should be done about the skills deficit. Although we are a company primarily involved in EdTech, we nevertheless seek to influence policy on the broader skills agenda. It is important that more voices are heard, and more stakeholders included, if we are to get skills right.

“We have applauded the government on its various initiatives around skills, but it is clear more needs to be done. We look forward to constructive engagement with central and local government and the business sector to ensure skills are given they importance they deserve.”

Click here to download this white paper in full. 

Employability inequality- the new normal?

2020 was a year of unprecedented change and transformation.

The coronavirus crisis catapulted the world into rapid change. Globally, populations entered lockdowns, businesses closed, and organisations were suddenly faced with the prospect of delivering their entire service model online. This necessitated a rapid transition into remote work, the adoption of new strategies, the move to new communication styles, and widespread behavioural changes. The embracing of the “new normal” was powered by a technological transformation that we might not have seen if not for the pandemic. New technologies were invested in to help support the remote-working model. Companies found themselves revaluating their existing internal cultures and trying to find ways to maintain employee participation, resilience and morale, in what was one of the most challenging periods many will ever face.

The rapid transformation brought many positives, the flexibility of working from home helped many people return to the labour market, and new emergent technologies helped accelerate the digital transformation of many businesses. However, for some, the pandemic worsened existing inequalities.

Gender 

During the pandemic, many women faced disproportionate effects of the crisis. A report from the Women’s Budget Group found that while women make up around 47% of the UK’s labour force, they represented 52% of all people furloughed. The report then went on to extrapolate data from HMRC which showed that by the end of February 2021, there were 2.3 million women furloughed in comparison to 2.1 million men. For many women, the pandemic brought unique struggles. They tended to absorb more of the unpaid work of the crisis and struggled to balance the demands of motherhood and work while also facing higher rates of redundancy and furlough. 

Old, ingrained stereotypes about women and their position in the labour market contributed towards women being worse off as a result of the pandemic. Assumptions around where the responsibility of care should be, who should juggle home-schooling, any wider family care requirements and work are deeply engrained regardless of the working status of both parents. Employers can and should be working to mitigate the imbalances found in work. This could take the form of flexible parental leave and guarantees that fathers who take time off work will not face repercussions in their career.

Race and Ethnicity 

The pandemic has had startling effects on young black workers. According to analysis conducted by The Guardian, more than 40% are unemployed, almost three times as many as white workers. Between October and December 2020, 41.6% of young black people were unemployed compared to 12.4% of white workers within the same age group. 

Historical inequalities across society also affect the employment market and it seems that young black workers are shouldering the brunt of the economic downturn. Before the crisis, many black workers were in jobs that held less contractual security such as zero-hour contracts, fixed-term contracts and cash-in-hand roles. With the pandemic forcing many of these insecure roles to disappear as well as the stringent requirements needed to qualify for furlough schemes, many people instead ended up unemployed and further from the labour market.

More work needs to be done to reduce barriers to entry for young black workers. The implementation of specialised, tailored support would be beneficial, alongside more research into understanding some of the structural barriers that may be preventing young black workers to return to employment. Issues such as structural racism and the higher likelihood of young BME people being from lower-income backgrounds directly affect employment outcomes.

Disability 

For many disabled people, the pandemic has caused a silent jobs crisis, while the disproportionate effects of the coronavirus crisis on other groups have been spoken about widely, often the plight of disabled people over the last year has been ignored. 

Research Fellow Vera Kubenz, from the University of Birmingham, commented that disabled people had been widely “excluded from [the government’s] plans” in the response to the pandemic. Furthermore, she discussed the “worrying lack of data on how disabled people have been affected” by the crisis which has led to policy that doesn’t take the unique needs of disabled people into account. 

According to data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), between April and June last year, the unemployment rate for disabled people was almost double that of the rest of the population. Many disabled people relied on more insecure forms of work before the pandemic as those were the jobs that offered the most flexibility in terms of hours and availability, as we moved towards a remote-working model these jobs disappeared.

As the economy reopens and these jobs reappear, disabled people will face intense competition for these roles as unemployment is so high across the population.

Employers have a responsibility to ensure they are prioritising the needs of disabled workers and jobseekers if the new normal consists of a mix of office-based and remote working, and organisations must ensure they are taking the opportunity to encourage more disabled workers into the workplace as this pandemic has proven that flexible and accessible working is possible. 

There is hope on the horizon: according to the latest statistics from the ONS, the UK’s unemployment rate fell slightly in the last quarter (January- March 2021) and the employment rate rose for the first time since the beginning of the pandemic. However, the number of people in long-term unemployment rose between January and March 2021 compared with the same period last year. While we may be seeing signs of early recovery, there is still much work to be done. As the restrictions across the country lift, and the threat of the new Covid-19 variants still looms, there may be more extended periods of uncertainty and disruption. In order to truly build back better, we must address the heightened inequality and find ways to make further progress to ensure everyone is represented in the new normal.

Creating Great Learning Experiences for Apprentices

Apprenticeships have long been recognised as a key stepping stone for young people moving from school into work. The structured pathways they offer, combining studying with working and earning and leading to a skilled job, are an essential feature of the employability ecosystem.

As we face a deepening skills gap and growing unemployment among young people, apprenticeships offer a model fit to solve these challenges, bringing businesses and educators together to ensure young people are being prepared to thrive in the jobs of the future. What’s more, evidence gathered during the last recession suggests that in countries with well-developed apprenticeship systems, such as Germany, Austria and Switzerland, young people were shielded from the worst of the economic downturn.

However, for apprenticeships to be effective, there is an important balance to strike. Managing working and studying while still being able to socialise can prove challenging. For apprentices to be able to get the most out of their apprenticeship, the learning experience needs to be carefully crafted to give them the flexibility, confidence, guidance, autonomy and support they need.

Here, we explore some of the key aspects that should be considered when creating learning experiences for apprentices.

Onboarding that instils confidence

Getting off to a good start when picking up a new course and a new platform is essential for giving learners confidence. So it follows that ensuring a smooth onboarding process for new apprentices is key to providing a great learning experience.From a technology perspective, the onboarding experience should be intuitive and easy to follow, with simple uploading of evidence and documents to complete compliance checks. To more broadly introduce the learner to the programme a combination of instructional videos, access to detailed frequently asked questions, and time to troubleshoot or ask tutors questions via a live video chat, help to support the learner through these early days.

Accessibility integrated into every aspect

One of the benefits of using digital systems to support learning is that they make it straightforward to ensure greater levels of inclusivity. Apprenticeships should be equally accessible to all learners. Accessibility should be designed into the tools, platforms and processes used to facilitate apprenticeships, rather than added as an afterthought. This means ensuring that the platforms and digital tools you are using are compatible with screen readers, for example, or that the screen contrast can be adjusted. Information should be imparted in a variety of ways, including written and audio-visual materials.

Accessing a system that has already taken their needs into account will boost the confidence of learners with different needs. Having to ask for additional support can be difficult and can leave some learners struggling. Accessible systems allow all apprentices to focus their time and energy on learning and working, rather than battling with tools that should be there to help them.

Flexible learning builds a flexible workforce

It’s become apparent over the past year that flexibility is key for navigating and thriving in work. To ensure that the workforce of tomorrow is able to excel, the learning journey should reflect working life.

In July 2021, the government’s new Flexible Apprenticeship Scheme will launch. Tim Davie CBE, Director-General of the BBC, said of it,: “I believe flexible apprenticeship schemes are critical for the future of our industry. Apprenticeships not only grow our skills base and expertise, but open up the industry to people from a wide range of backgrounds. That’s great for our industry and great for mobility. Everybody wins.”

We have all come to expect flexibility from work and life. Being able to set our own schedules, manage our own time and achieve what we need to according to our own priorities is becoming a permanent feature of working life in a way it wasn’t before. To prepare apprentices for this, flexibility should be designed into apprenticeship schemes. For this reason, a combination of self-guided study and classroom hours is an effective structure to follow. Particularly because of coronavirus, but increasingly because the benefits of being remote have been proven beyond doubt, enabling apprentices to access learning modules digitally, engage with their teachers in digital classrooms and via video chat, leads to the best student learning experience. And this approach will also provide learners with the skills they need to thrive in the workplace, including confidence using digital systems and video chat for professional and academic purposes, as well as developing essential time-management skills.

Driving engagement and motivation

Self-guided learning holds many benefits for apprentices, allowing them to progress at their own pace, fit their studies alongside their work and social lives, and giving them control of their own learning journey.

Nonetheless, it can be difficult for students to remain motivated without the encouragement from teachers that they’ve been used to at school. One of the benefits of using a digital platform to learn is the ability to track progress. For learners, being able to see how far they have come is a key motivator and will give them the determination they need to complete their apprenticeship.

Key to this is also the quality of the materials that students can access remotely. eLearning needs to be delivered in a variety of engaging formats to ensure that student attention is held. And this will also contribute to the accessibility of the programme as different learners absorb and retain information in different ways – diverse eLearning materials will support the broadest range of apprentices to thrive in their apprenticeship.

 Ease of use

Young people entering apprenticeships today are digital natives and, as such, have far less patience than previous generations for platforms and systems that don’t function smoothly. They have higher expectations for a seamless experience that combines a great user experience across different devices (particularly on mobile) and that is quick and simple to use – that is integrated, for example, with other key tools they may use. The technical aspects of the tools used to support apprenticeships will make all the difference to the fluidity, and therefore effectiveness, of the apprentice learner experience.

Mental health and wellbeing, resilience and the pandemic

Since the pandemic started, global mental health has declined significantly. Alongside the stresses caused by chronic uncertainty, isolation and grief, rising unemployment has contributed to a drop in mental wellbeing in populations around the world.
Here, we examine how mental health has changed as a result of the coronavirus, how this converges with experiences of unemployment, and what jobseekers and employers can do to safeguard themselves and others.

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