Expanding opportunities for the future workforce

Posted on 12 Jul 2022 by The Manufacturer

According to Statista, 13% of British people used online learning in 2020 however, during the past two years the approach and mindset to online learning has accelerated significantly. Online learning can offer many more benefits than simply helping businesses and educational institutions through the pandemic.

Online learning can transform how engineering apprentices learn and master new skills, making it simpler, faster and more efficient for both the learner and the employer. Here Kevin Flint, Senior Lecturer at manufacturing trade body, Make UK, highlights some key benefits of online learning for engineering apprentices.

Apprenticeships are not typically thought of when discussing online learning, as they predominantly focus on hands-on work. However, when the apprenticeship scheme includes the opportunity to achieve a nationally recognised qualification, the hands-on work with the employer will often be supported with some classroom-based activity.

For example, apprentices will attend the site of a training provider once a week to complete the assessments required for their BTEC. This means employers are limited to partnering with training providers in the local area, while apprenticeship candidates are limited to joining the schemes of training providers they can travel to. Rising fuel prices and access to public transport further limit their options. Online learning can therefore help plug skills gaps at a quicker rate by increasing the number of students that can apply.

The flexibility of online learning mean apprentices do not have to reside in a specific area with access to training facilities — they can learn from anywhere. This approach also suits cohorts with different learning styles — a blended approach is more likely to cater to those needs than a traditional classroom experience.

Real life experience

Apprentices apply to online learning programmes for a variety of reasons. For Rachel Greenwood, Level 5 Improvement Specialist apprentice at GESIPA, the flexible nature of online is a huge benefit.

“Finding a course that could fit around my schedule was really important. When I add up my shifts and commute time, I’m out of the house for almost twelve hours each day. My ability to access online resources around my schedule means that I can reflect back to what I’ve learnt at any time.

“The Make UK course is really well planned and I get four dedicated hours a week to put what I’ve learnt into practice with my employer, which means I have the opportunity to learn skills outside of my core role purely to support my development. The versatility makes it a lot easier for me to absorb the information and learn at my own pace. I don’t think I could go back to classroom learning!”

Stephanie Potter, Level 5 Improvement Specialist apprentice at AE Aerospace, enjoys the combination of in-person support and independent study that comes with a blended learning programme.

“Initially I struggled as I came straight from college and didn’t have the same background knowledge as everyone else. Make UK was really supportive and put me on a lean course to help me catch up. I enjoyed getting face-to-face tailored support, alongside the freedom to create my own study schedule. I no longer need the level of support I got at school and like that my studies are my responsibility. Hands-on learning is my favourite, so it’s fun to apply what I learn online straight into my job. Hands-on work helps retain and reinforce the information I get from e-learning.”

Make UK is currently offering blended learning to its Level five Continuous Improvement apprentices. To register for an open day or view vacancies for the September 2022 cohort on the Make UK website click here. Employers interested in offering a Continuous Improvement apprenticeship with Make UK can contact Business Development Director Mark Farrant.