How Gloucestershire College is delivering apprenticeships that fit the needs of business

Gloucestershire College is a key part of the county’s economic future, with a business plan to deliver the apprenticeships needed for growth. SoGlos meets Richard Poole, whose specialist team is making it happen.

By Andrew Merrell  |  Published
Gloucestershire College has three sites at Gloucester Docks, Cheltenham and Cinderford in the Forest of Dean - and has just been rated ‘good’ by Ofsted.

With more than 1,300 apprentices going through its doors annually and demand continuing to rise, Gloucestershire College has assembled a specialist team to help it continue delivering the courses that county businesses need.

Heading up one of the apprenticeship delivery teams is apprenticeship manager, Richard Poole, whose staff work closely with the business development team headed up by Dawn Morgan, which directly reaches out to firms about opportunities. It currently works with 1,500 companies. 

Despite a sea change in attitudes towards apprenticeships and the transformative work the college is doing to ensure targeted, meaningful courses for businesses across the sectors, the county still has untapped potential, according to Poole.

‘I would say there is still a lot of business out there that could benefit from either recruiting an apprentice or supporting their employees’ training and development goals via apprenticeships.

'We have so many more qualifications and courses now that could really benefit them and their staff.’

Poole came to the college via private business, where he gained years of experience helping deliver training and apprenticeship programmes before joining the Gloucestershire College team.

‘I have a remit to look after a wide range of sectors; dental nursing; early years, teaching assistant; business administration; customer services; hospitality; hair; marketing; and leadership and management and to ensure fundamental skills delivery in all those.

‘It is not only once a year we take on apprentices now. The main intakes for dental nursing, for example, are April and October, but the majority of my other courses start all year round.

'When Morgan’s team approaches a business and they are interested, that is when they start speaking to us. My team will work throughout their programme and review progress to see if apprentices are reaching the targets and feed that back to everyone.

‘We are here to ensure the right kind of development is happening at the right pace. We have around 15 assessors doing that.’

One of the biggest areas of growth currently is those studying Teaching Assistant/Early Years, with a cohort ranging from parents looking to work within schools their children are attending to youngsters straight out of school, with many hoping to continue on into teaching roles.

Marketing has also grown, said Poole, with the college broadening its offer to include a Level 4 marketing executive apprenticeship after speaking to Gloucestershire businesses about the kinds of skills they need and want.

‘Leadership and management is another area where we are doing more after talking to employers, with quite a few business taking Level 3 and operational manager Level 5 apprenticeships (equivalent to a foundation degree, or a Higher National Diploma).

'These programmes usually are best suited for people who are currently within an organisation and looking for development with future promotion in mind.’

And it is open to suggestions from business about potential new apprenticeships to introduce, too. 

‘First of all we would see if we have suitable staff to deliver a new course, then we have various things to get to the point at which we can apply for validation. One we have secured that we can then get going.

‘We find ourselves offering more and more higher level qualifications.'

The cost of training an apprentice is often covered, with different funding systems applying depending on the size of a business. Those with a wage bill of more than £5 million are able to access apprenticeship levy money and there is an incentive for 16- to 18-year-olds, with £1,000 a week coming from the government.

But it's not just about the funding, it's the breadth of apprenticeships available at Gloucestershire College and its ability to listen to the needs of business which is attracting more and more apprentices, including from outside the county too, with its experience delivering online learning through the pandemic meaning it can now deliver learning to a wider geographical area. 

Students who leave school with seven or eight GCSEs are now signing up when they might once have only considered university. In addition to encouraging more businesses to use apprenticeships for upskilling their existing staff, Poole said it was Year 8 and 9 students that were key to this continuing trend. 

See Gloucestershire College for more information. 

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