Patrick Tucker

Berkshire Hathaway, Royal Dutch Shell, IBM, Lego, Old Spice, U2, Madonna, Artic Monkeys, The Beatles, David Bowie, The Cure and The Clash. What do they all have in common? 

They are very well-known successful businesses, artists / bands that have all reinvented themselves throughout and when reinvention is needed. 

Post COVID-19 there will undoubtedly be a lot of reflection, self-reflection and business shaping / reflection. To me one thing is certain, and this is that a crisis reveals character, with that in-mind it will lead people in directions where they wouldn’t normally go. Putting this into context for Training Providers, there has been lots of talk about different forms of ESFA payments to providers but not a lot of thought about the sector, specifically thinking about the majority of training providers that are SME’s. This article is not going to discuss what is right, what is wrong, who is right and who is wrong about some of the decisions or lobbying that has been happening, but what some of the actions inform is exactly clear – ‘crisis reveals character’.

For many organisations, post COVID-19 will be a time to really look at itself and reinvent itself, and for some it will be a time to focus on the local community and collaboration, and for colleges they will be taking their role as community leaders! 

Therefore, it is important to try to look into the future and develop training providers that are not just fit for the 2020’s+ but also to develop into a training provider that is fit for purpose for the future post COVID-19. 

For many it will be a time to invest most energy managing to the contours of their existing operations, reviewing the financial S curve and look at coming back into the productivity, then ascend rapidly, and taper off. What is needed is energy to look at creating the foundations of successful new business and develop into the future of training, in short we must create something new – a Modern Skills Provider for the 2020’s and the new era Post COVID-19.

Businesses that successfully reinvent themselves have one thing in common, they broaden their focus beyond the financial S curve and:

  • track the basis of competition in their industry, 
  • renew their capabilities,
  • nurture a ready supply of talent. 

Training providers must be open to radical reinvention to find new ways of working and generation of revenue. As an example, digital learning (VLE’s) have been around for decades (I myself was using Blackboard successfully with a great learning tool / carousel of activities way back in 2003), but for some its new and therefore will be going through a digital transformation at present, but post COVID-19 it’s not all going to be on-line as it currently is, as it is easy to do when there is nothing else to do! There will need to be a reinvention post COVID-19 into a digital world and back into pre COVID-19 when we all go ‘back’ to work, therefore a digital transformation will be needed. 

With this in-mind, let’s review a tested approach by McKinsey & Company:

“Extract the full value from digital requires a carefully coordinated approach across the four “Ds” - Discover what your digital ambition is (based on where the value is); Design programs that target profitable customer experience journeys; Deliver the change through an ecosystem of partners; and De-risk the process by thoughtfully sequencing steps. ‘McKinsey & Company ‘February 2017’

Let’s focus on this and think about training providers moving forward post COVID-19, there will be a specific need for business rejuvenation and business reinvention, so whilst everyone is embracing Zoom, Teams (and other platforms) that is just the very start of e-learning. The automotive apprenticeship sector has been using video observations for over 10 years, so for your business post COVID-19 it will be time for reflection and analysis, and what worked and what didn’t work. Transparency, honesty and the utilisation of an openness programme with staff will be needed. 

A good starting point will be breaking down the 4D approach and reviewing each ‘D’ with detail to formulate your business accordingly, so it comes out stronger and into the world of e-learning. As an example, something I have used in the past is Double Robotics, where ‘mobile’ learning can be utilised with great success in lots of environments. 

Whilst the technology is being analysed, there will also be a need to review the business and focus on business rejuvenation or development / growth. I am suggesting there will be a need for greater collaboration between schools, providers and having your ‘local’ college at the heat of your growth plans. Putting the local community at the heart of what is done. 

Horizon Scanning  Future Proofing

Question - Why do we continue to compete, try and tear each other apart and create a system which is neither healthy nor serves the interests of our learners, whatever their ages and backgrounds?

Let’s develop a ‘Modern Skills Provider’ for the 2020’s post COVID-19

  • Co-locating facilities with Colleges and Providers 
  • Learning from each other with staff contracts and utilising resources
  • Joint bidding
  • Curriculum planning 
  • Back office support 
  • Sharing employer relationships 
  • Engaging more effectively with Schools.

Competition (it will shift) – a reinvention of apprenticeship provision and other funding streams will be needed, a shift away from direct competition (even though competition is good) will be needed to work in a collaborative approach that feeds into the future of providers to ensure success for all. There are more reasons to collaborate rather than compete. 

The hidden talent curve – Focus on the hidden talent that may have come out in your organisation during this crisis, are they your next leaders? Can you harvest them to develop yourself within? New skills will be required, technology will become more important in education and the workplace, some staff will retire, others will found new meaning from working from home and may want to reduce hours so creating opportunities for employment and new ways for the SLT will be needed due to empowerment and trust. 

Long term thinking (not short 3-month strategies) – As mentioned earlier, there has been an approach during this Pandemic to only focus in the very short-term, utilise the techniques associated with Horizon Scanning. Horizon scanning is about exploring what the future might look like to understand uncertainties better. So, do not focus on the immediate, now is the time for preservation for training providers and not short-term thinking, and then focusing on the future and how to build a successful future for your business. 

We have spoken to many providers this week who are struggling to make sense of what the future may hold. Remember each business is different and a ‘one fit all’ approach will not work. Take a stand back to review the landscape, focus on the understanding of your business now and in the future. Review the opportunities open and available to all at the moment, and if right for your business then make the right decision and furlough staff appropriately. 

Irrespective of who you are in the apprenticeship sector, things will never be the same post this crisis. Employers Levy is accumulating and there will be a need to ensure this is successfully utilised (not to chase the money, but to develop and support businesses post COVID-19). Providers need to utilise this time to develop for the future, and ‘pause & think’, as business needs will be different post COVID-19, there will be a need to develop an offer that is ‘fit for purpose’.  With that in-mind, look at setting a team to develop post COVID-19, and focus on the future as well as the here and now. 

We must start the discussion somewhere and start to develop models that work for our local communities, employers and develop a model of collaboration rather than competition to ensure success for the future and sustainable growth.

Patrick Tucker for Promote-Ed

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