A White Paper on ‘How Further Education Meets Industry Demand for Software Skills’ has been published to examine how FE colleges can partner with EdTech specialists to accelerate the delivery of skills that lead to employment.
Four FE organisations, including Society for Education and Training (SET) Corporate Partner, Newcastle College, alongside South East LEP, Code Institute and Gateway Qualifications, collaborated to offer a practical response to the depth of the job crisis as a result of Covid-19 and Brexit.
The paper offers a roadmap for FE colleges to follow to ramp-up the delivery of in-demand skills that lead to employment and support younger workers in need of new career opportunities in the tech sector.
The White Paper was undertaken by the four organisations to provide context and give others in the Further and Higher Education space an incentive to start the conversation and make a key contribution.
The paper details how FE colleges have particularly close links to their local communities and the capacity to respond to the growing realism among employers that an apprenticeship-style model of recruitment is the best way of provisioning the tech skills they need.
Reflecting on the White Paper, Vikki Liogier, National Head of EdTech and Digital Skills at the Education and Training Foundation (ETF), said: “Partnerships can support FE colleges in reshaping their digital offer to better respond to the labour market needs. The FE white paper released in January 2021 defined how the Strategic Development Fund and the new College Business Centres will facilitate changes to provisions that have been endorsed by local employers. This initiative is an effective exemplar of what can be achieved through collaboration.”
However, it explains how FE colleges are in a bind: they recognise the demand for a recognised qualification to skill or re-skill people for employment in tech roles — and do so within a relatively short space of time — but lack the resources not only to create such a course, but to deliver the teaching.
Newcastle College is one FE provider which saw a path through this and is now enrolling learners in the new Gateway Qualifications Level 5 Diploma in Web Application Development. The qualification is funded through the Advanced Learner Loan mechanism and delivered by a third-party online education platform, Code Institute, and created by Gateway Qualifications.
The non-negotiables for Newcastle College were that the course be delivered flexibly to fit in with the complex real lives in its local communities, that it offered learners an opportunity to turn their lives around quickly, within a year, and that funding was readily accessible. Code Institute has a consistent employment track record of 90 per cent and is widely recognised by business and the IT industry; both are instrumental in shaping the course content, keeping it relevant to the demands of employers.
For Andrew Nicholson, Head of Digital Technologies at Newcastle College, working with an online delivery expert, Code Institute and Gateway Qualifications gave Newcastle College the opportunity to launch quickly: “The ability to get it off the ground now far outweighs the potential advantages of creating a qualification like this under our own steam, as the resources needed and the time frame involved in developing the platform would be very considerable,” he said.
Since launching in December, Newcastle has already onboarded their first cohort of learners with applications for a second cohort about to open shortly. These learners will have graduated and be in employment early 2022.
Businesses throughout the UK have accelerated their demand for web application, software development and coding skills as operations move online – yet a shortage of suitably skilled workers persists and the gulf is widening. “Lack of connectivity – just basic lack of kit – is hindering the chances of young people and adults to participate in training, and to be part of society really,” says Louise Aitken, Skills Lead for the South East LEP, which is launching a £2m procurement initiative to re-skill local communities hit hard by Covid-19. “Part of the programme is a package for digital connectivity,” Aitken adds, “because this is what local employers tell us time and again: they need people with digital skills.”
In the South East, a great example of this partnership approach is co-investment in Stansted Airport College, one of a number of SELEP capital investments worth over £40m. SELEP, Harlow College, Essex County Council and the Airport invested in this facility.
Newcastle College was quick to spot the opportunity. As an FE college, it can play a much more pragmatic role than universities in connecting its local communities with the jobs market. It has taken the initiative by adopting Code Institute’s programme to support an under-served portion of their local community: people who are looking for a flexible, cost-effective and above all quick route to a career, or change of career.
Download the White Paper to read it in full.