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Professor Wall, from the University’s Centre for Work Related Studies and Editor in Chief of the Higher Education, Skills and Work-Based Learning Journal (the journal of the Universities and Vocational Awards Council) said: “Stand out projects are those that leave a legacy for you and your organisation - and although tricky under lockdown - you can still deliver one.

"Flexibility is key - both for progressing work-based projects and for apprentice resilience and wellbeing."

The academic team at the Centre for Work Related Studies, which has won two Educate North Awards for their engagement with Business and was shortlisted by Times Higher Education for its outstanding contribution to leadership development, shared their top 10 tips:

Apprenticeship providers should:

  1. Support learners to fully understand that the unprecedented learning that they are immersed in may provide numerous learning opportunities and adapt assessment criteria accordingly. For example, business continuity planning or learning and implementing new technology can provide valuable assignment material and strengthen evidence of learning and impact.
  2. Tailor delivery to incorporate interactive and live content that can be recorded and accessed at a later date by learners in order to accommodate key workers, parents of school age children and others who may no longer be able to commit to restrictively timetabled sessions. 
  3. Individually negotiate and support the adaptation of research projects to allow for effective data collection methods which do not detract from the quality or ethical nature of the research, nor risk the health and wellbeing of learners.
  4. Be flexible about communication methods and the times that your tutors and learner mentors may be contacted, particularly for healthcare employees and other key workers who may be managing the health, wellbeing and support mechanisms of family members and others in the wider community.
  5. Ensure that dialogue is maintained with workplace mentors and apprentices to identify relevant learning opportunities and provide a holistic and supportive on the job and off the job learning environment.

Tips for apprentices:

  1. Be flexible with your method - how else can you achieve the same outcomes? Desk based approaches, like literature or systematic reviews or document analysis, can reach the same goal. Reflective methods such as first-person action research can also be useful.
  2. Adapt your outcome - if you can't get the same outcome, then negotiate an alternative one. Don't be too attached to having the same outcomes you were planning pre-lockdown. For example, do you need to do five focus groups to get what you need or can the two you've done already give you enough to work on prototypes which are then voted on by staff.
  3. Be flexible about who is involved - think about who else could get involved rather than the original list of people. Keep those who are influential in rolling out the impact informed, but they may not need to be intimately involved.
  4. Consider the artefacts you'll be creating - what other products or resources can you create that will not only demonstrate the knowledge, skills and behaviours you need, but will also create legacy impacts beyond the apprenticeship. This can even demonstrate your creativity and innovation.
  5. Keep yourself and dependents safe and well - this means not placing yourself at additional risk for the project. It can be changed to deliver something good even under lockdown conditions. Every provider has options for taking a break within the boundaries of contracts - know the boundaries so you know flexible you can be.

Executive Dean of the University’s Business School Professor Kurt Allman added: “Apprenticeships currently form a significant part of the UK Government’s industrial skills and productivity agenda. Whilst they have missed their ambitious target of three million total apprentices by 2020, the numbers joining each year are around 400,000, which is still very significant. Therefore, insights into the effects of COVID-19 on those work environments and the individual apprentices themselves are essential in maintaining the effectiveness of this policy. For apprenticeship providers and apprentices, these tips provide areas for professional reflection, debate and dialogue.”

Apprenticeships offer employers a funded opportunity to provide training for employees and new entrants to their workforce. The government has already pledged to invest £3bn into a national skills fund from 2021 which may involve an apprenticeship guarantee for young people aged 16-25 to gain the skills that are needed to work in a post-COVID economy. Similarly, mature employees and specific sectors have been hugely disrupted and the Centre is well-placed to support employers in the delivery of accredited and non-accredited training courses of varying lengths, which can be negotiated and designed to re-skill individuals though bite sized learning. It is clear already that thousands of people of all ages and disciplines will be searching for apprenticeship and training opportunities and we welcome enquiries from businesses as we look forward to working with our employers to collaboratively design and develop programmes to help build a highly skilled workforce. To find out more about our work please contact Dr Lisa Rowe lisa.rowe@chester.ac.uk.

The Centre for Work Related Studies is one of the UK’s leading providers of the Chartered Manager Degree Apprenticeship and the Senior Leader Degree Apprenticeships, representing some of the earliest business and management degree apprenticeship programmes. The Centre has developed both programmes with leading businesses including Airbus, Unilever, Bentley, Barclays as well as a large range of public sector organisations leading to full accreditation from the Institute of leadership and Management (ILM) and is currently responsible for training just under 8% of all Senior Leaders enrolled across the UK.

CWRS has around 1,100 learners - across undergraduate, postgraduate and Doctoral levels, and has been one of the leaders in this field now for over 20 years. It's Director, Associate Professor David Perrin commented: "Flexibility and responsiveness are key in the modern world of university education. In our case, this extends to not only offering apprenticeships and corporate programmes but bespoke study too where students can negotiate their own individual learning pathway and award title."

For further information see: www.chester.ac.uk/cwrs

 

 

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