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Why we must think differently when it comes to local skills needs

Meeting local skills needs has always been a key role for colleges and training providers, but the pace of change for regulated qualifications can often be too slow for the demands of industries that are trying to stay ahead in their sectors.  

The world of work, the economy, and skills requirements are changing rapidly, yet it still takes two years to develop an apprenticeship standard. If you add another year for market adoption and a further year to produce knowledgeable, skilled and productive apprentices in the workforce, we’re effectively asking industries and occupations to stand still for four years. 

That’s just one of countless examples as to why our skills system is falling further behind the pace of change. Something needs to happen if we’re to at least catch up, if not get ahead.  

Industry knowledge 

This is where accreditation has a big role to play. It can help to boost the curriculum and provides an opportunity for colleges and training providers to co-create new customised qualifications that meet sector-based skills gaps – at a quick pace. Despite this, it still feels like it’s not a very well-known or explored solution within FE.  

The fantastic thing about further education is that it’s filled with subject experts and industry knowledge. If this is then combined with expertise in designing qualifications, new courses can be created that directly meet the specific skills needs of the industries and areas that colleges and training providers are working within.  

These bespoke qualifications can also be aligned with Local Skills Improvement Plans (LSIPs) to speak to broader regional skills gaps. Learners benefit thanks to receiving co-branded certificates that can act as a difference-maker when progressing in their chosen career, and colleges and training providers retain full ownership and intellectual property of the courses they write.  

Endorsed programmes 

If designing a brand-new qualification is overkill for what a particular industry or sector requires, there’s also the option to have workshops, seminars and short courses endorsed by an awarding organisation that don’t have formal assessment criteria. 

At NCFE, we recently developed the option to have branded digital credentials that allow learners to have an online recognition of their achievements. This provides a portable and detailed account of the skills they’ve gained and tangible evidence of how a college or training provider has added value to its curriculum.  

Whether it’s through fully customised qualifications or endorsed programmes, accredited training has the added benefit of being a point of differentiation, such as in tender submissions. It’s also valued by Ofsted thanks to the programmes being externally validated by an awarding organisation, meaning they act as a mark of quality for providers. 

In addition, customised qualifications can also be used as the training course element of a Skills Bootcamp - flexible courses supporting employers wanting to retrain existing staff in order to develop new business or upskill and expand roles. Skills Bootcamps also support individuals who are self-employed, and any employed or unemployed adult looking to gain new skills to enable them to progress. 

Awarding body accreditation can be used to add credibility to Skills Bootcamps, assuring participants and stakeholders of their effectiveness and helping providers evidence their ability to deliver high-quality programmes to Ofsted. With digital credentials alongside, participants can show how they’ve directly benefited from completing a Skills Bootcamp and allows them to clearly demonstrate their skills and knowledge to employers.  

Staying ahead 

With greater devolution high on the election agenda, it’s likely we’ll see increased powers heading to our regions to help them tackle localised skills and training needs.  

Reducing the influence of Whitehall will help to speed things up, but by thinking innovatively, colleges and training providers can take more control of their own unique offering and better support the varied needs of the communities they serve.  

You can discover more about our accreditation offer by visiting our accreditation homepage.


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