From education to employment

Apprenticeships: Company-wide insight into the challenges faced by colleges and private training providers

David Grailey is the chief executive of NCFE, the qualification awarding body

Last year alone 2,000 colleges, schools and training providers chose NCFE as the awarding organisation to help 340,000 learners move ahead with their careers.

Clearly, apprenticeships are high on the government’s agenda for getting young people into work. Training providers will, of course, have welcomed the fact that the overall funding allocated to apprenticeship programmes is increased under the Adult Skills Budget (although the funding per apprentice is falling). The additional resource reflects the growing popularity of this path as an alternative to academic studies.

At NCFE we are committed to supporting this growth in demand by providing a range of full and part apprenticeships at Intermediate and Advanced levels that meet the needs of the learner and the employer. Currently, we offer around 40 full apprenticeship qualifications in areas such as business and administration, leisure, travel and tourism, information & computer technology and health, public services and care.

It was with this growth in demand very much in mind that we recently put in place a company-wide training and awareness programme so EVERY member of staff understood our apprenticeship offering, they appreciate the challenges our customers face and the need to ensure we continue to provide the highest level of service and support.

While we have always prided ourselves on striving to achieve the highest quality of support, by reinforcing this message across the whole of the business, it puts us in the best possible shape to meet the level of increased demand that will come through this year. It was for this reason that every department was given a full insight into our apprenticeship offering and asked to reflect and recommend additional ways in which we can make customer interaction with NCFE as efficient as possible.

We recognise that giving our customers an excellent level of personal service and support can go a very long way. It allows them to concentrate on working with employers and funding partners and most importantly delivering apprenticeships to learners.

Some of the protocols we have in place to assist customers include a named point of contact and direct phone line to assist with queries, 24-hour turnaround for certification, specifications that are written in plain English, a package of supporting materials including guidance specifically designed to suit learner needs and an easy to understand fee and pricing structure with no hidden costs.

To ensure high standards, we ensure our External Moderators and Verifiers attend qualification training and standardisation events each academic year.

This looks set to be a very interesting year for all of us involved in the education and training sector. In this era of austerity and tight budget control, providing a quality service has to be a given. Those that will soar highest will be those companies that get closest to their customers and add value at every turn. That is our aim at NCFE.

David Grailey is the chief executive of NCFE, the qualification awarding body

Read other FE News articles by David Grailey:

Association of Colleges Conference highlights growing Importance of employability outcomes

New solutions for getting young people into work

The adult skills budget offers opportunities and threats to the Further Education sector

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