Jill Whittaker, Managing Director of HIT Training

What a year. In 2020 every training provider has jumped through hoops to ensure that learners can keep learning, and complete their studies wherever possible. Ofqual and the ESFA have been slow to react, leaving thousands of learners unable to complete their studies since CAG was removed at the end of July, and leaving providers supporting learners who have run out of funding at their own cost. Slowly but surely we have kept going, responding to the needs of learners and employers, and trying to stay ahead of the game.With vaccines on the horizon, and experts saying that we should be seeing an impact by next summer, it no longer feels too soon to be dreaming about a world without COVID restrictions.

The great skill of ITPs is that we bring a business bias to the world of learning. As businesses ourselves, we are perfectly placed to recognise the challenges of the organisations we work with and to help them to develop learning solutions to make their operations better. Throughout 2020 that has led to many providers flexing their business models to give employers, and learners, what they need now. Our ability to be fleet of foot means that we turn demand around quickly - in such an environment, we don't have the luxury of long periods of time to plan & pilot before we launch new programmes to meet demand. Yesterday I was talking to Sean who is Chief Commercial Officer at Lifetime, and he said that they have developed warehousing apprenticeships to meet client demand this year. At HIT and Connect2Care we have launched a suite of short courses to give employers and individuals the skills they need now. Just two examples of how our sector dusts itself down and just gets on with it.

So how do we build back? And how do we make sure that we are better for the next cycle? Most of us will be taking a little time away from the day job over the next month or so, and it's a great opportunity to reflect on what we have learned this year. Most of my team thought that it was impossible to deliver high quality learning over the internet, and through practice they have learned that this is not true. We will never go back to our previous model, and whilst we would not want to be 100% online forever, the benefits of robust online workshops and one to one delivery reach far further than the learning. My teams have more time, as they are not travelling, so they are more accessible to the learners and employers that they serve, which has led to a better experience for learners, less stress for many staff, and improved paperwork. Did I say paperwork? There's no paper, and better still, our fossil fuel usage has dropped off a cliff. This is better for the planet as well as the learner. 

To build back better we need to continue to listen to what our customers need, whether they are employers or individuals. We must stay fleet of foot whilst learning from our experience, and we must not slip back into our old ways. It's an ill wind that blows no-one any good, and although this pandemic has been truly horrendous and catastrophic for so many, it has taught us some hard learned lessons about ourselves that we must never forget.

Jill Whittaker, Managing Director of HIT Training

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