How FE colleges can act commercially and meet the demands of the apprenticeship reform

  By UNIT-e   - Monday 16 October 2017

The introduction of the apprenticeship reform sees FE colleges becoming more commercially minded and thinking about ways to attract employers and apprentices to generate greater revenues. For some this is an uncomfortable mind set shift. Education has historically been perceived as having a softer approach rather than showing a steely competitive edge. Yet times are changing and FE colleges must adapt. With the government’s drive for three million apprentices in the education system by 2020, there is now the attraction of significantly increased funding to be had and it’s not to be sniffed at.

If you are from an FE college and you want to start thinking and acting more like a commercial entity in order to secure funding and all the benefits that brings, read on.

5 ways FE colleges can think and act like a business

  1. Improve your customer service
    Your customers – employers – now have far more money to spend with you as a result of the reform. Reach out and reengage with those you may have lost contact with. Maintain existing relationships with regular contact. It’s time to foster closer relationships with employers and if you don’t your competitors (other colleges and training providers) will.
  2. Review your processes
    Follow your workflows through from start to finish as if you were an employer or an apprentice and make sure no-one and no communication can fall through the gaps. Together with employers you will need to agree on delivery plans, pricing and assessments so impress them with your well-thought out processes and failsafe systems.
  3. Test your staff
    Do you think your staff can confidently talk about apprenticeships with employers and apprentices? Why not set up a series of workshops and role plays, making it easier for staff to learn how to explain it all, and the USPs your college can bring to the table. Explaining the reform can be complex but to compete against training providers and other colleges your team will need to be faultless.
  4. Market your FE college
    It’s time to change your approach to marketing. This doesn’t mean you need to start from scratch. You could just review your existing marketing materials and amend them to meet the changing landscape and address the new demands from employers and apprentices. Circulate your good news stories in the press and post them on your website. Market your strengths in alignment with changing demands.
  5. Improve your systems
    Your systems should be reviewed any time there is a shift in the internal/external landscape. Do you think your software can scale to meet new challenges? Is it complex or time-consuming to use? Will it be able to meet the demands you place on it and does everyone involved know how it can work to support your offering?

If you are able to build relationships with employers you will create a steady flow of apprentices to your college, reducing the time and costs involved in finding and matching apprentices, courses and placements. The opportunities the apprenticeship reform offers to FE colleges are not to be missed out on, yet in order to secure and maximise those opportunities, your college will need to think and act more like a business to strengthen your competitive advantage.

The statistics in this infographic may help with gaining approval, business cases, or just give you a better understanding of the shifting FE landscape.