Digital technology is a key tool to improve training quality and enrich the apprentices’ experience. With a new funding model for apprenticeships and the introduction of a new standards-based approach, technology allows for a fresh approach to apprenticeship delivery.
Overall the education sector has been slow to adapt and adopt new technologies, but it’s time to change that. We live in a world of sweeping technological change and the further education sector needs to get on board. Technology enables providers and employers to deliver more relevant learning methods and ensure that learners have skills relevant to the industry that they work within.
Colleges should embrace the use of digital platforms which can facilitate distance learning and can generally improve communication between employers, providers and learners. Collab Group colleges like Derby College, Activate Learning and Blackpool and Fylde College have a proven tracked record in delivering technology-enabled communication and learning to improve participation. They offer a wide range of distance-learning courses which give flexibility to learners and give more opportunities to people that must balance other commitments.
On top giving flexibility, technology can also better prepare apprentices for real life scenarios. Simulation technology gives apprentices real tasks and real problems in a controlled environment. It allows learners to engage with learning, at their own convenience, without having to use expensive equipment. Of course, simulations cannot eliminate the need for hands-on training, but incorporating modern technology can enable greater awareness and understanding. Bridgewater and Taunton College uses Virtual Reality (VR) technology to create a learning environment that recreates a nuclear plant. This gives students first-hand experience of the nuclear workplace without having to be in a dangerous environment. They can learn about rehearsing operations and developing industry behaviours that are crucial in this type of workplace.
Additionally, in some sectors, it is becoming increasingly important to be technologically aware. For instance, the construction sector has been going through significant change, embracing the huge advances in technology due to cost base, efficiency and environmental impact. Some colleges like Leicester College are already preparing their apprentices to use and adapt the new technology sector. The college has a Construction Technology Centre with industry-standard facilities that enable students to train in using the latest machinery and technology.
What is clear is that FE colleges need to be aligned with employers, so learners need to be trained to use the technologies that employers use. Technology plays a crucial part in the successful delivery of apprenticeship programmes and further education. A blended learning approach, using technology and more traditional methods, will better prepare learners to the world of employment. As these technologies become more widely utilised the demand for a skilled workforce becomes more critical.
Tom Lowe is Director of Membership and External Relations at Collab Group, a membership organisation which represents leading UK colleges and college groups. Tom is part of a team that is passionate about working with colleges who are at the forefront of developing specialist training for these new skills required in the sector.