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Make UK's Apprentice Technology Centre in Aston is one of the UK's leading facilities delivering high specification, virtual training to around 1450 Apprentices across the UK. Usually this has been in a classroom hands on environment utilising machine tools and equipment to deliver Foundation Skills, BTEC, HNC/ HND and other qualifications in either one day a week or four week blocks before third and fourth year Apprentices add in on the job training.
Even before the Covid 19 crisis we'd been looking to take more of our training online to save companies the cost of their Apprentices travelling from all over the UK to spend time at Aston, but once the full lockdown started we were presented with a sizeable challenge to pivot literally overnight to delivering as much of our training online as possible. The need to avoid abandoning the commitment to Apprentices by both Government and Companies is one that we have been keen to stress and our ability to adapt business continuity as far as our training model is concerned is one that will provide us with a blueprint for the future.
So how has it been done so quickly and how will it look in the future? Instead of a physical classroom all our tutors are now delivering from virtual classrooms with the course theories transferred to online material, with a use of YouTube videos and filmed presentations, covering all of their academic studies that would naturally have been done in face to face classroom environment. Tutors have become incredibly innovative in their own way to deliver the training and keep the students engaged using a combination of PowerPoint, Digital Whiteboards and in one case using their kitchen doors as physical whiteboard! 
This is far from the traditional model of distance learning and is done in an interactive visual way with online breakout sessions added where the students will retire to virtual chatrooms to return and discussion how to solve a problem. All assessment is delivered remotely by Tutors who are also offering coaching and mentoring sessions too. We also have the ability to record all of these sessions so students can watch again to recap and also catch up on anything they have missed.

Our innovative approach has led to record numbers learning online with some forty lessons a week and up to eleven ninety minute sessions in one day. Currently we've around five hundred students studying this way with an average of eighteen people in each class. The major challenge has involved first year Apprentices who we are trying to teach the greatest amount of foundation knowledge and theory. 
We are still working extremely hard to overcome the challenges for the delivery of the workshop elements of the apprenticeship for our first years, but we are hopeful that elements of the practical work can be demonstrated online via video tutorials, and once we are able to operate face to face sessions they will have the necessary refreshers and practical tests to ensure that they can pass the assignments in those workshop areas. 
I believe our ability to pivot so quickly has provided an impressive example of Make UK's ability to innovative and continue to serve the needs of companies. It is by no means perfect but we are learning and adapting very quickly to the new environment we find ourselves in. There is little doubt that with social distancing likely to continue for some time and the ability of people to travel around likely to be less attractive, certainly in the near term, this is a model that provides us with an ideal way forward. We have also received some great praise and comments from our students on how we have maintained a level of learning for them. I am extremely proud of all the staff at the apprentice facility and the students for adapting so quickly to this new environment

Blog / Apprenticeships