CMC is delighted to be featured in FE News.

Our CEO discussed the many valuable personal skills and life lessons learned by our apprentices through lock down.

Apprentice training providers are putting measures in place to protect and encourage effective learning in the new environment 

Marketing apprenticeships have had significant disruption to their study plans over the last few months. But it’s not all bad news, and there have been many valuable learning experiences including developing personal skills such as resilience, new forms of communication, time management and the ability to cope with change. 

Many professional apprentices and their line managers are worried about apprentices falling behind in their training programmes during lockdown. Whilst some apprentices have been able to continue their studies even in furlough, others have had to pause their programme. So it may be useful to reflect on the many other lessons and skills apprentices have been able to develop since March.

Marketing apprentices may not have been able to follow their formal study plan focused on learning and growth in knowledge, skills and behaviours; and developing an understanding of British Values and what it means to be a citizen in a diverse, multi-cultural Britain.

However, for many there have been other valuable learning experiences:

1) Resilience

However the apprentice has found lockdown, they have coped and so learnt strategies for doing so. Some strategies will be healthier than others (exercise is clearly better than comfort eating) but becoming aware of how you naturally deal with ongoing stress and uncertainty is invaluable.

2) Coping with change

No one has been unaffected by change in their daily routine and there has been a fast-pace of change at work. Again, whatever these changes were and however the apprentices adapted, they have learnt self-awareness and how to work alongside others under stress.

3) Citizenship

Has been front and centre throughout the pandemic from understanding the importance of key workers in our society to valuing our neighbours and rebuilding community spirit. Some will have been avidly following the news, others more cautiously, but all will have gained knowledge of how elements of our society and state work and the contribution every individual can make. The Black Lives Matter movement has also encouraged thinking and challenging of societies’ structures, history and power balance. Exploring all of these should be encouraged.

4) Communications skills

We have all had to learn to communicate and keep in touch in different ways – video conferencing, house parties, online quizzes, family chats, work meetings: it’s all communication. For example, if they have successfully explained to an elderly relative how to use an app like Facetime, then they have communicated a message in a way their audience has understood. If they have interacted with team members in a way they didn’t before, that is another key skill development. Many have had to talk or present information to groups of people at online meetings instead of having one to one discussions, developing both their presentational skills and confidence. Learning how to use Zoom and other such tools effectively is likely to continue to be a key skill going forward.

5) Time management

Under-rated but WFH is not normal for many. Juggling family, work or furlough with study and new job requirements: all hones skills. At a recent apprentice tutorial, the learner was upset that neither work nor parenting was being done to their usual exacting standards but on discussion, they had already found inventive ways to juggle and still achieve. Learning when to drop standards, and when to raise them again is a life lesson.

6) Flexibility

Our apprentices are in communications and marketing roles so many have taken on new tasks including internal communications, supporting online chat, creating nurturing social media, or for those in key sectors, being moved to admin roles as their organisations needed additional support. In other roles, apprentices have volunteered for more shifts or hours to cope with an increase in demand, meeting the organisation’s and society’s needs. This adaptability and willingness to be flexible are important qualities for employability.

7) Team working

In different teams, in the same team but WFH, observing how different people cope with the situation: how some thrive, some sink, some snap, some nit-pick and how all this changes over time as the “corona-coaster of emotions” takes its toll. They are learning to be a supportive team member and to understand how people deal with situations differently.

Capturing this learning

The key is to encourage apprentices to reflect on and process their experiences, via a learning diary, vlog or conversations with their tutor. I’ve been impressed by the depth of analysis they have applied – apprentices may lack the vocabulary to understand the Kübler-Ross grieving process but they recognise the stages in their peers; they may not be able articulate the general anxiety they have experienced, but they have created and observed coping strategies. Capturing this and reflecting on it makes the learning stronger. In a perfect world, this would be revisited at the end of the apprenticeship to develop their understanding.

On a practical note, discussions with a tutor count towards time spent on the apprenticeship. As long as the apprentice has reflected on some of the experiences and so genuinely learnt, then this most certainly contributes to learning time on the programme.

I have concentrated on the positives so far, but there are of course many negatives, including a rising concern for the mental health of all, including those who outwardly have coped well.

To finish on a couple of other areas:

Radicalisation – there has been upsurge in online radicalisation – at a time, when many or most people are more vulnerable. All apprentice training providers are signed up to the Government’s Prevent strategy for dealing with radicalisation. For employers, be available to listen and contact your HR department, your training provider or your local authority if you are concerned.

Safeguarding – lockdown has affected everyone in different ways, but some are being put at more physical or mental risk. All training providers have a Safeguarding Officer available to apprentices and employers who can signpost help and support.

This has been a unique time so, rather than worrying about conventional learning, embrace and reflect on other elements. We all hope this time will never come again, but the life experience is incalculable.

Kiran Kapur, CEO, Cambridge Marketing College