Rising to the challenge as colleges get back to business

We returned to College for the new academic year knowing that it was going to be a challenging term as we balanced important pandemic safety protocols with the essential move of getting our students back into a classroom environment.

Planning for a COVID-safe return at Nelson and Colne College Group consumed a lot of time over the summer months, however, I have also been busy working with colleagues across the UK with the Independent Commission on the College of the Future as England’s Principal representative.

I was delighted to put my name down in support of a new report published last week on colleges working with the NHS to assist easing its workforce difficulties – a collaboration between the Commission and the NHS Confederation.

Recent months have been painful for our country during this pandemic. Yet we have been reminded just what a wonderful asset the NHS is as it rose to meet the challenge of COVID-19, and we saw College students and staff volunteering for the NHS and in care homes to support their communities.

For the NHS to continue to serve us in our hour of need, further investment is required. If the Government is going to tackle the significant workforce challenges across the NHS and social care – there are around 90,000 NHS vacancies, on top of more than 120,000 in social care – colleges need funding in order to support this.

The new report calls for “employer hubs” to be set up across England to bring together local NHS organisations, including hospitals and general practices, with their local Further Education colleges to collaborate on courses and a pipeline for the local recruitment of health and care staff across a range of professions.

We at Nelson and Colne College Group enjoy a deep and long-standing relationship with East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust, and we already support them in a number of innovative ways. However, it is not like that everywhere, and there is scope for growth and development.

The proposed hubs would focus on supporting local people to enter or progress careers in health and care, including through recruitment, upskilling and retraining, and in doing so, tackle local workforce shortages, which can vary considerably across the country.

In the joint publication, we call on the Government to:

  • Invest £5million over two years to pilot employer hubs in each of the seven NHS regions in England to help NHS and care organisations’ recruitment and training
  • Support the creation of a Health and Care College Council in England, with £2million funding over three years to create a national council to promote, develop and embed the essential contribution of colleges in education and training pipelines in England, and
  • Embed the role of colleges in the local delivery of the national NHS People Plan, which was published in July

The role and contribution of colleges within the education and skills system, and specifically in the minds of large employers such as the NHS is all too often poorly understood. With these recommendations, we have an opportunity to unlock their potential to develop strong and sustainable pathways into NHS careers for local people using tangible steps.

We at the Commission are looking forward to continuing to work with the UK Government as they set out their plans for Further Education in England with a White Paper later this year – I’ll keep you informed of its progress.

Until next month, Amanda.

Innovative employer incentive launched for Apprenticeships with Nelson and Colne College Group

Nelson and Colne College Group is offering employers across Lancashire and the wider North West region an incentive payment if they hire an Apprentice before 31 January next year.

Any employer that hires a new young Apprentice aged 16-24 prior to that date will receive £2,000, while those that hire new Apprentices aged 25 and over will be paid £1,500.

It means that employers could receive up to £3,000 in total for hiring new 16-18-year-old Apprentices during the incentive scheme as the funding is in addition to the existing £1,000 incentive the Government already provides for new 16-18-year-old Apprentices, and those aged under-25 with an education, health and care plan.

These payments are offered by Nelson and Colne College Group’s Apprenticeship and Training arm – incorporating Nelson and Colne College and Accrington and Rossendale College – which is number one in Lancashire for employer satisfaction.

A shared benefit of Nelson and Colne College and Accrington and Rossendale College’s successful merger in 2018 is that both institutions share the status as number one in Lancashire for 16-18 Advanced Apprenticeships – where Apprentices complete their Apprenticeship within the designated time period.

Barbara Livesey, Nelson and Colne College Group’s Director for Apprenticeships and Training, said: “We understand that the pandemic has been an extremely challenging time for employers. We believe, now, more than ever, that Apprentices will play a vital role in the recovery of the local and national economy following the Covid-19 outbreak.

“This incentive to employers is a really a fantastic opportunity, and our team will make sure to work with employers to talent match an Apprentice to their business needs – advertising the vacancy and selecting and coaching the right candidate for the job.

“We support businesses across a wide range of sectors, with many reaping the rewards of Apprenticeships. Through Apprenticeships, employers gain highly-skilled and motivated employees who are able to deliver impact, and a return on investment against their current and future skills needs.”

Claims can now be made by employers in relation to Apprentices hired between 1 August 2020 and 31 January 2021, and these will need to be made through the Apprenticeship Service. Nelson and Colne College Group’s expert Apprenticeships and Training Team will be on hand to support employers with this process, ensuring that it is as smooth as possible.

Any employers who would like further information on the incentive can contact Nelson and Colne College Group’s Apprenticeship Team at apprenticeships@nelson.ac.uk or by calling 01282 440319.

To make a successful incentive claim, the hired Apprentice must be a new employee to the business, have a contract of employment start date between 1 August 2020 and 31 January 2021 (inclusive), and must not have been employed by the employer within the six months prior to the contract start date.

There will be no limit on the number of incentive payments that an employer can claim for Apprentices eligible to receive funding, provided each Apprentice meets the criteria above. The payment will be made directly to employers in two equal instalments, where the Apprentice is still in learning at day 90 and at day 365.

Nelson and Colne College Group offer a wide range of support of Apprenticeship and Training to employers, and can provide Apprenticeships in sectors including Business and Professional Services, Catering and Hospitality, Engineering, Construction Trades and Building Services, Education and Childcare, Health and Social Care, Hairdressing and Beauty, Motor Vehicle, Retail and Customer Service, and Sport and Leisure.

For more information, visit www.nelson.ac.uk/apprenticeships or call 01282 440319.