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Skills Bootcamps, the opportunity, the potential, the challenge!

29 July 2022

By Pauline O'Brien

Skills Bootcamps, the opportunity, the potential, the challenge!

Bootcamps the hottest word in FE and training at present. Since they were announced in September 2020, Coyne Recruitment have been working with a number of the trail ITPs across the country to get this offer right. The aim of bootcamps is to help individuals adjust to the changing world of work through training to upskill or reskill so to enable transition from work in low paid or declining sectors and occupations into new career directions. There was an additional focus on equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) given the digital and technical workforces are white, male dominated.

As well as supporting our clients in resourcing and recruiting talent, our expertise in the employability sector has also helped our clients in designing roles and functions that work towards the outcome-based aspects of initiative. (For more information on this please feel free to call us on 0151 294 4431).

Wave 1 – was deemed a massive success across the below regions who received grant funding to trail blaze the concept.

1.      The West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA),

2.     Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA),

3.     Liverpool City Region (LCR),

4.    West Yorkshire Combined Authority (WYCA) implemented via Leeds City Region,

5.     The South West local enterprise partnership (LEP) – Heart of the South West (HotSW) and

6.    The Derbyshire/Nottinghamshire LEP (D2N2) 

The success of wave 1 led the Department to set about commissioning a second wave of bootcamps that would cover all regions of England (Wave 2). The regional leads indicated that the bootcamps were a good fit for local priorities, which were identified in local industrial strategies and local inclusive growth strategies. The pandemic had hastened longer term trends in some industries, which meant the bootcamps were well timed to support individuals to make career transitions; it had also increased employers’ needs for basic digital skills as well as higher level digital skills.

The biggest age group of learners taking part was 26-35 years (44%), with 36–45-year-olds forming the second largest age group. Around a third of learners were from minority ethnic groups with the Asian / Asian British and other ethnic groups showing the largest proportions beyond the white / white British group. A tenth of the learners were disabled. Just under a quarter had caring responsibilities. Data from FE Week.

The opportunity for employers is quality prepared candidates for the avalanche of vacancies the job market is seeing across sectors such as Digital & Tech, Logistics, Health & Social Care, Construction et al. as well as the closing of the skills gap in those sectors. We all know this as professionals in our sector, but how do we convey and sell that to employers?

On one side, the increase and demand for sales, and business development people in the sector has been huge, especially since April. We need to think about incentives to entice top quality talent, as well as out of sector talent. Selling bootcamps hasn’t got the intricacies of apprenticeship levy sales for instance, but it could be a great training pool for sales talent within the sector and the transition of bringing people from employability in to the skills sector, similar to the transition we saw in 2016!

Growing an employer base for ITP’s by using Bootcamps as a route in is fantastic, and can open doors to talk about apprenticeships, SBWA or even commercial training – but getting the right consultative talent is key and we do need to think about how we are attracting, assessing and onboarding this talent into the sector. For advice on talent attraction and recruitment call us on 0151 294 4431.

There is also a massive opportunity for learners/participants to move quickly through qualification and be ready to take advantage of the buoyant job market. The key is supporting them with employability skills during the Bootcamp and wrap around care afterwards. This is a skill set that we have played with within FE for a long time but we’ve never quite got right. Our director Stuart is currently working on a consultancy basis with a number of Bootcamp providers, supporting them in setting up a commercial recruitment arm. While this is another fantastic opportunity for providers, commercial recruitment, particularly in sectors Bootcamps are serving, are entirely different beasts and it’s good to get an overview of this before going gung ho.

Learners – on one hand, an opportunity, on the other hand, a challenge! Where are they coming from and what is the route to get them recruited? A lot of providers were using social media platforms for advertising market digital and technical bootcamps, including Instagram, TikTok, Facebook and LinkedIn through Wave 1 with great results. Jobcentre Plus can refer unemployed people, as can some third parties such as employment support services. But is this enough to fill the demand and cohorts, and also make it a strong revenue line for ITP’s? Also, a question I know is being asked across all of our clients at the moment is… How will this affect apprenticeships? It’s too soon to say at present but it is worth drawing comparisons to other plans for job initiatives and how they impacted each other, I’m specifically thinking about Kickstart and Traineeships!

Another challenge is the outcome-based payments and linking this into Learners getting into work with their new skills. Partnering with established recruitment businesses is an option but will that close the opportunity to grow and diversify, and also hit the value set a lot of ITPs are built upon?

Quality provision – this seems to be very fluid at present but I can see this becoming a key aspect as Bootcamps evolve. The challenge is that quality and curriculum teams need to be using the same benchmarks they use across other provisions. Helicopter reviewing and assuring quality, and then getting the sales team to boast about this to employers and referral stakeholders from the highest tree tops.

Finally, something highlighted by industry leaders just this week is employers desire to take a punt on newly qualified candidates vs looking for the unicorns with experience in such a tight job market! We see this from you guys as employers in our sector! Of course, having industry experience makes a candidate stand out. However, candidates who demonstrate desire, impetuousness and wanting to put into action new learning, is the pool of candidates that employers need to take advantage of - but as a challenge, are sales and business development leaders factoring this into the pitch?

Bootcamps were well received by all stakeholders engaged in the evaluation of Wave 1. It is suggested this is due to high rates of completion alongside learners passing the planned assessments and assignments. I didn’t mention the equality, diversity and inclusion aspect of the challenge to learner recruitment above as this is going to be something very much looked at by the departments MI specialists. I know from speaking top providers a this will be a key aspect of reporting and it will be interesting to see results recorded over the course of the next few months and years.

This is an exciting time! Bootcamps are going to evolve and change the face of access to quality work-based learning, and hopefully be one of the solutions to getting people better paid, more secure jobs during the current economic crisis. We are ready to support our clients and the sector as a whole in this regard and although we are always pitching to help you with your recruitment, the time to talk about alternative support we can offer is now. The team and I look forward to offering our advice and consultancy to you anytime you call.

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