City training academy goes online to beat COVID-19 crisis

7th May 2020

‘Lockdown doesn’t have to lock workers out of learning’

Businesses in the SCR are being urged to give employees ‘value and purpose’ through E-learning while working from home during the coronavirus lockdown.

As the World Health Organisation warns that social distancing measures can negatively impact on mental wellbeing, a leading Sheffield training provider is urging bosses to remember that staff working at home could lose focus and feel depressed during lockdown.

The Source Skills Academy, a registered charity, says companies can use this period positively by accessing free training to boost their workers’ skills or qualifications.

The Source swiftly sent all staff home and closed its conference and training centre on Meadowhall Way on March 23, in-line with the Government-ordered nationwide shutdown.

But it immediately sprang up in a new form - as an online trainer.

At least 70 online courses, ranging from management skills to data protection and social care qualifications, are now being rolled out for home-working employees of SMEs and other individuals wanting to use lockdown productively.

For many SCR businesses the training is free - via funding from Skills Support for the Workforce, which is co-financed by the Education and Skills Funding Agency and the European Social Fund.

Since the system went live on March 27, 89 learners have enrolled and are being supported by 12 tutors accessible 12 hours a day. A flood of enrolment requests are arriving each day.

“Making this online move puts The Source ahead of the field. I am very proud of the team. We went fully online within four days, enabling us to protect our staff and develop our business model while helping companies across the region to advance, even in these difficult times,” said Tricia Smith, CEO of The Source.

“It is so important during this crisis to keep your staff motivated, focussed and learning. Lockdown doesn’t have to lock workers out of learning and feeling valuable,” she added.

The award-winning training organisation was able to leap into action because for six months it had been preparing for online training to meet growing demand from businesses.

“Many companies we work with were keen to increase workforce knowledge, efficiency and productivity in a more convenient way,” explained Dale Robinson, head of sales and marketing.

“Delivering training online meant workers wouldn’t have to travel to us from different offices, towns and cities.”

Making sure it had the right delivery model was key. The Source developed its own internal systems with the help of Microsoft Teams and e-Assessor. Learner experience is constantly being tweaked in line with user feedback

and 26 courses have been rolled out on the e-Assessor platform.

A further 47 are available utilising VideoTile, an interactive video-based platform offering courses in a huge range of subjects. An ever-expanding package of courses is also available remotely through Google Classrooms and other VLEs.

“It was exciting to see the first online learners enter the platform and we are right alongside them,” said Danny Slinn, Employment & Skills Project Manager at The Source.

“Our trainers are live online to assist, face to face, at any point, using interactive platforms such as e-Assessor. We are conducting video conferences with learners all over the SCR and have administrators and support key workers on hand, should learners need them. The best bit? We are contactable practically anytime of day and will respond that day too. Not many providers can offer that.”

Training materials can be accessed 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Anyone without internet access devices can be posted learning packs to complete by hand and tutors will support them by phone.

Of The Source’s 75 staff, 35 staff are still working on the delivery of education and training. Others are being furloughed wherever currently possible.

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