In the Covid 19 age, equipping workers with the demand for skills companies was a learning experience for City of Glasgow College, but one that helped them to refine their education.
For the social and economic future of Scotland, further education is important. If they are to succeed, companies need access to a highly trained workforce, and the country’s college network is a primary source of training for the skills needed.
Educators and business leaders need to work closely together, and programs such as the Versatile Workforce Development Fund of the Scottish Government promote this mutually beneficial interdependence.
One of the primary institutions offering training under this initiative is City of Glasgow College. The course offerings have changed significantly in recent months in response to the pandemic: since April, more than 400 fund courses have been provided to over 3,500 participants through distance learning.
Government ministers reacted rapidly to the virus – the fund was raised overall from £ 10 million to £ 20 million for 2020/21. The college had to rapidly adjust to a new and very different learning climate as well.
“We are delighted to have been able to continue to support the business community during this pandemic,” says Carla Gethin, City of Glasgow College’s director of business and international partnerships.
This fund understands the vital value of the college sector, and it means we can play our full role in the recovery of post-Covid education and skills. We have considerable involvement with our national and local employers.
“We’ve all had our employers’ independence. We faced a challenge, of course, but we already had offers to fulfill their needs for skills.
“We then had to provide those offers on an online platform, but we were able to respond quickly.”
While the ethos of the College of working together with employers to meet their needs is firmly in place, workers faced difficulties adjusting to the problems caused by Covid.
“Until this virus hit, 99 percent of our classes were face-to-face,” explains Douglas Thomson, the Versatile Workforce Development Fund Manager of the college.
“Most of it was held face-to-face in a room, so we had to move away from that. The core subjects haven’t changed, but the focus has shifted a bit – we’ve all become much more familiar with online conferencing than we were before.”
How did the dramatic shift in course offerings that the pandemic demanded come about? “Basically, we canceled everything from mid-March to April and used those six weeks to figure out what we were going to do,” he said.
“We realized we needed to move to online, and our faculty formed a team to optimize our model for this new way of learning, and we continue to refine our model. It’s certainly been a challenge, but our people have done a fantastic job.”
One advantage of the fund, Thomson says, is that it has encouraged employers to step beyond the courses they are legally obliged to offer their workers and into other relevant, but often not sought, areas of training.
“It has allowed them to address long-standing areas of training need and address issues like productivity. That’s a very positive change.”
The sheer scale of the college – one of the largest in Europe and built to accommodate up to 40,000 students – means that it is capable of offering a wide selection of courses along with an immense amount of invaluable advice and expertise.
To explain their training goals and define the resources they will need to make the transition to virtual learning, organizations were approached by college staff.
Where organizations find this especially difficult, college workers were on hand to help. It was necessary to collaborate with employers in the early weeks of the pandemic, and the willingness of the College to adapt was essential for Radisson Hotels UK Ltd, as Sarah Penkett, Radisson’s Learning and Growth Manager, explained:
Radisson Hotel Group took advantage of the Versatile Workforce Development Fund for the first time this year and collaborated with City of Glasgow College, which provided our company with a range of half-day and full-day training courses for our department heads and supervisors to provide our company with a choice of half-day and full-day training courses.