From education to employment

University and employers design new skills and business-boosting course

A new, unique course has been designed by the University of Chester with employers in Cheshire, Warrington and Shropshire as developing a workforce with the right skills in post-pandemic times is highlighted.

Starting this October, the Gateway Certificate in Professional Education is being offered by the University’s Business School to provide the skills that employers outline as the top priority for today’s, and the emerging, workplace.

Focusing on real-life challenges in each workplace and finding solutions to them, the short course has been developed in collaboration with employers, Chambers of Commerce and the Federation of Small Businesses.

The university-level (level 4) qualification is being launched as the Northern Powerhouse identifies gaps in workplace-driven education and skills that need be addressed. At the Northern Powerhouse Education and Skills Summit 2022, it was clear that flexible education and reaching a wider audience is vital to filling skills gaps in the economy to ‘level up’.

As part of its long-term strategy, the University has undertaken significant engagement with key employment sectors, particularly healthcare and those related to industrial decarbonisation and Net Zero. This work has highlighted that these sectors are evolving rapidly, and so are the skills required to undertake existing and emerging roles, with 80% of the workforce of 2030 already in the workplace.

The course is also meeting the Government’s pledge to enable adults to retrain and upskill in later life. It is eligible for the new tuition fee short course loans along with bursary grants for learners who need help with the cost of study

Vicky Evans, Senior Lecturer in the Business School’s Centre for Professional and Economic Development and Course Leader, said:

“This unique, work-based short course has been created in partnership, and with careful consideration, to strengthen skills and businesses in a complex and uncertain global environment.

“While our degrees have professional skills development and experience embedded within them, this is a new option for professionals in the workplace, specifically designed for people who may not have had the opportunity to go to university or would like to return to university-level study. It is also designed to benefit their businesses. Through this Certificate, employees can focus on their professional development and upskill to boost their future career potential, while also bringing an immediate positive change to organisations.

“Each module has been designed to address the specific development and business needs that employers told us were their key concerns in today’s workplace. Professionals can choose to study three work-focused modules from the following options: Confidence with Technology and Technological Innovation; Effective Communication for the 21st Century; Building Agility, Resilience and Wellness; and Leadership, Emotional Intelligence and Change.”

Vicky added that the course is open to students from a wide range of backgrounds, professions and business sectors, with no formal entry requirements as previous experience at work is taken into account. It is a complete qualification in its own right but the intention is that it could also lead to further valuable study including a full undergraduate degree, as it sits within the University’s flexible work-based learning framework that allows progression on to individually negotiated studies.

Mike Goodall, Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) Development Manager said:

“The skills of small business owners and their staff are central to running and growing a successful enterprise. However, smaller firms can be very time constrained, so they need access to flexible, fast and focused training opportunities. This short course offers exactly that, and the Federation of Small Businesses was delighted to be able to help inform its development in collaboration with the University of Chester and other partners.”

Stephen Fitzsimons, Chief Executive of Warrington Chamber of Commerce, added:

“Whilst there are many challenges currently facing UK businesses, upskilling talent is always near the top of any company wish list. Too much training has focused on the economy of today, rather than in preparation for the future opportunities from the green agenda. This University of Chester course will quickly boost the intellectual capabilities of businesses across Cheshire, Warrington and Shropshire.”

The Gateway Certificate is also designed to be flexible and manageable alongside work and family life. Mainly workplace-based but with networking opportunities, each module requires students’ attendance for just one day in the classroom as well as half a day of online supported learning. There are no formal examinations as assessment is part of workplace practice, bringing value to the work role, such as a detailed report, research project or presentation. The Gateway Certificate can be completed within six to eight months, with flexibility to take longer if needed.

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