Here’s why you should put learner happiness first

Brad Tombling examines the results of recent research into apprenticeships and concludes the learner must come first to achieve success.

The way that businesses recruit and train their employees is crucial to reducing the skills gap and boosting employment. Since the start of the pandemic, youth unemployment rose by to 59,000 an increase of 11%  and with a damaged economy to treat, the emphasis is on routing young people into employment like never before.

A large part of the Government’s focus is on apprenticeships as signalled recently its FE white paper. Apprenticeships offer on-the-job training, providing the opportunity to work (literally) straight away towards a qualification from the age of 16.

They are an essential vehicle to transport thousands of young people to meaningful careers. The Government’s investment in apprenticeships reflects the value that they bring to the workforce when delivered effectively. 

But in an industry dependent on the successful outcome of its learners, what is the most important ingredient of a successful apprenticeship training programme?   

Gain greater insights into the learner 

To give some background, many challenges have been faced within the training industry over the past 12 months with the swift move to remote learning, but research with the AELP has shown that the industry may have moved forward as a result. Digital learning has provided even more data, providing a granular view on each learner.  

The emotional state of a learner therefore needs to be a key consideration for training providers when supporting apprentices through the curriculum

Studies have shown that learners with a positive outlook retain more information. Dr David Rock, co-founder of the Neuroleadership Institute explains that, “people experiencing positive emotions perceive more options when trying to solve problems…and generally perform better overall.’ 

The emotional state of a learner therefore needs to be a key consideration for training providers when supporting apprentices through the curriculum.  

The industry could be guilty in the past of being process driven, and linear in its approach to a set curriculum, but the best way to raise the standard of apprenticeship delivery is to put the learner first, and that doesn’t happen with a one-size-fits-all strategy. 

Let the apprentice take the lead

Raising the levels of learner happiness and satisfaction in a tech-savvy generation depends on the following approaches: 

  • Mobile-first. Today’s apprentices are true digital natives and expect to consume products and services at any time and in any place. A survey by statista shows that 94% of generation Z regularly use a smartphone to access the internet. Accessing content via a smartphone is second nature to them, therefore apprenticeship delivery needs to be mobile-first if it is to engage this audience.
  • Enhance communication between learners and trainers. The requirement to meet face to face with a learner will remain when times are more ‘normal’ but being digital-first needn’t mean a reduction in direct contact with the training provider. Quite the opposite; it allows you to increase the frequency, if necessary, whilst also allowing trainers to bring their own personality and style to their delivery. It is an approach that’s high on engagement.
  • Greater autonomy. Giving learner’s the digital tools and the autonomy to decide how they complete the curriculum is an important aspect of engagement. Taking a singular approach to each learner nurtures their individual strengths and growth in their learning journey.
  • Measure happiness regularly. Determining learner happiness relies on a clear framework for monitoring progression. Make learner happiness a key metric for apprenticeship delivery.  Build in interactive “personal development” activities to the online curriculum to track knowledge, skills and behaviour at regular intervals and to spot signs of a drop in engagement.
  • Pause to listen. Track learner progress in real-time, rather than wait for course work to be handed in late and hold regular calls or zoom meets to show that you value the learner experience. Invite learners to share their voices and experiences.   

Make apprenticeship delivery personal and interactive 

The pandemic has brought forward digital transformation to the training industry that may otherwise have taken some years more to achieve. The research with the AELP in August 2020 found that overwhelmingly, 79% of providers said that the changes they made when shifting to remote learning may improve their overall offer in the long term. These are gains that many providers do not want to lose. 

The research did uncover that remote learning wasn’t for everyone, however, and face-to-face delivery won’t be replaced by technology by any stretch, especially with practical apprenticeship courses.

But it’s all about equipping learners with the right toolset to engage themselves in their learning and for providers to enhance the delivery at a personal level and putting in measures to ramp up engagement at the point when it’s needed most. 

Above all, the needs of each individual learner must come first as apprentices move along their learning journey to a clear progression path. And with the spotlight on the training industry to deliver the future talent pipeline, never has the impact of learner happiness been more vital.


About the author

Brad Tombling is head of customer success at training management platform Bud Systems


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