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Archive for December, 2011

Today’s post comes courtesy of Roger Francis, Director of Services and HR at MindLeaders ThirdForce 

A few months ago I blogged about the scientific fact that wild rabbits have bigger brains than tame ones. Of course, this is because wild rabbits have a much wider environment to explore, have to fend for themselves and most importantly, they can learn from experience and from other rabbits. You can’t do any of that when you are stuck in a hutch.

Wild bunnies were very much on my mind when I sat down a couple of years ago with my team to develop a delivery solution for Functional Skills. We knew that Functional Skills would become a compulsory component of the Apprenticeship framework and that many of the 600,000 plus learners who start an Apprenticeship programme every year would be bringing along bad memories of their experience of Maths and English in schools, having been fed on often unappetising morsels of information in their classroom “hutch”.

If we wanted to address that challenge and release large numbers of “wild” Apprentices into the open countryside, we knew that we would have to develop a programme that was exciting, innovative and enabled our baby bunnies to learn from experience and from each other. We believed that informal learning as opposed to formal teaching was the way forward.

All our feedback to date suggests that we have been successful. Our delivery method enables learners to seek out their own solutions to the problems that we set them. They then receive detailed feedback and support from their Learning Support Managers (or perhaps we should call them mother rabbits…). Our clients tell us that learners who have completed Functional Skills are noticeably more confident, better motivated and more eager to progress than their colleagues who have been fed the old Key Skills lettuce.

In addition, we are incorporating more and more features of social learning into our delivery solution. Our bunnies already have access to podcasts and can participate in weekly webinars. And of course, we don’t plan to stop there. Over the next twelve months, we plan to incorporate more and more features of social and informal learning into our solution and develop a living, breathing Functional Skills learning community that rivals Watership Down. Learners will be sharing their successes with their “friends”, tweeting about their experiences and seeking support from fellow members in “learning groups” specializing in specific areas of their programme. It will be informal, interactive and most importantly, fun.

All of this is of course a million miles away from the classroom “hutch” in which I grew up and it took me a long time to plot my escape. So I am passionate about helping the new generation of baby rabbits to join me in the wild and determined to ensure that they survive when they get there.

Who would like to join me?

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You're welcome!

Today’s post comes courtesy of Roger Francis, Director of Services and HR at MindLeaders ThirdForce

I’ve recently returned from a business trip to the States and as usual, I was overwhelmed by the quality of customer service in comparison to the UK. The cynics may say that it is inextricably linked to a tipping culture but in my opinion, the difference seems to run deeper than that. Great customer service is embedded in their culture, something that shows through in the warmth of their hospitality.

The problem we have in the UK (where our economy is now so dependent on the “service industry”) is not so much that our service levels are poor, it’s that they are horribly inconsistent. Whether it’s in a restaurant, a hotel, a supermarket or a bank, the level of service we receive varies from one person to another and even within a single site it can differ from one day to the next.

Yet UK companies invest huge sums of money in training their people to provide good service and then even larger sums of money in advertising the fact that they provide fabulous service. So why the chasm between the aspiration and the end result?  One reason is that companies focus on “service” because they think that they should do so, rather than because they believe it adds real value and a genuine point of differentiation.

At MindLeaders ThirdForce, we put an enormous amount of energy and resources into our service provision. Whilst we believe that our elearning and vocational training products are Best in Class, we also recognise that many of our competitors have quality offerings.  However, as we have been told time and time again, one of the key reasons why customers choose our products is because they know that they are guaranteed an unmatchable service offer.

There are two other key aspects to any successful service offer. Firstly, we need to understand that the service offer is not a one size fits all model, but should be tailored to meet the needs of the individual customer.  That means we need to gain a thorough understanding of what our customers require – not just of our products, but of the wraparound service.

Secondly, we need to recognise that customer aspirations continue to rise and what may be regarded as a good level of service today will appear average in 12 months’ time. That is why we constantly review our service levels, regularly seek feedback and develop innovative ways of improving our offer.

What are your views on the value of “service” and what have been your experiences to date?

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Today’s post comes courtesy of Roger Francis, HR & Services Director at MindLeaders ThirdForce

I’ve just spent the last two hours navigating my way through the 100 pages of George Osborne’s Autumn Statement. Hidden beneath the headlines are some important commitments on Skills Provision and to save you the pain of ploughing through a never ending PDF, here are the key points:

  • The government has confirmed that providers will be required to train all Apprentices up to Level 2 in Functional Skills
  • There will be an increased focus on Higher Apprenticeships and providers will be encouraged to  bid for additional funding in 2012
  • There will be a major employer-led review into the quality and standards of Apprenticeships, reporting in Spring 2012
  • The government will fund a £250m pilot scheme to channel skills funding directly to employers in order for them to design and develop their own vocational training programmes
  • The government confirms its commitment to adult numeracy and literacy training  but will reform the provision and pilot new funding schemes to incentivise success
  • A new £50m scheme will be launched to support 16-17 year old young adults not in education, employment or training (NEETs).

We welcome all these initiatives. In particular we expect that Functional Skills will not only become the required standard for Apprenticeships but will also be the cornerstone of standalone adult numeracy and literacy and can form the backbone of pre-Apprenticeship or pre-job training for NEETs.

Having developed a hugely successful delivery solution for Functional Skills, we believe that we have a major role to play in helping to implement these initiatives and are looking forward to working with government agencies, organisations such as the Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP) and both existing and future customers to implement these important initiatives.

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