A plea to independent training providers – make your voices heard 

7 May 2022, 7:00

Some ITPs may have small or no marketing departments, but many are very keen to get learner and staff voices into the press, writes Nicki Hay 

You may have seen my interview in last week’s edition of FE Week. It was great to have the opportunity to talk about my previous experiences and my vision as AELP’s new chair, but I couldn’t help but feel like the piece ended on an unfair note.

It was suggested that those ITPs FE Week has contacted largely do not respond quickly or enthusiastically to requests for contributions to the paper, a comment that was met by concern and dismay from AELP members.

Many raised their disappointment with myself and Jane Hickie, our chief executive, saying they would be more than happy to be involved. Naturally, I have been keen to tackle this challenge head on and turn it into some positive action! 

Many ITPs say they are more than happy to be involved

Most ITPs do not have significant budgets and staffing for marketing, communications and PR.

However, ITPs have a great story to tell. I have been privileged to see first-hand the good work that so many AELP members do up and down the country, for the benefit of thousands of learners and employers of every size, in every sector.  

With skills shortages significantly impacting our nation’s economy, ITPs have also never had as important a task on their hands ̶ training, retraining and upskilling the workforces that our businesses need. All providers now have to operate in challenging and unpredictable environments.  

We have seen remarkable resilience for ITPs over the period of the pandemic in particular, which is testimony to their creativity, flexibility, and determination to deliver high-quality training.  

Having been involved in the ITP business for over 20 years, I know that the sector is unique and has significant strengths. ITPs deliver a wide range of skills and post-16 education provision ̶ from apprenticeships to traineeships, adult education to employability, skills boot camps to study programmes ̶ and so much more in between.  

We know quality and confidence is high, too – 80 per cent of ITPs are rated as either good or outstanding by Ofsted, 85 per cent of employers report satisfaction with the overall quality of training and assessment delivered by ITPs, and 86 per cent of learners are satisfied with the teaching and training at ITPs.  

No two ITPs are the same ̶ they range from large, national providers delivering across multiple sectors and locations, to small providers supporting a handful of learners, often in rural areas or niche sectors.

All FE providers have a really important role to play in the skills system, and it is really important that every type of provider is recognised for the fantastic contribution they make.  

As I said in my interview, one of my biggest priorities as AELP chair will be to champion this recognition for ITPs and to promote the significant role, value and impact they have in supporting the nation’s skills needs. 

Multi ethnic group of business persons having a meeting in the office

I am calling on AELP members and colleagues across the wider sector to help raise the profile of their individual organisations and the ITP sector generally, by speaking to FE Week about the work that you and your staff are doing on the ground, for the benefit of learners and employers.

Particularly, you can pitch your ideas for the ‘Staffroom’ column, which is for trainers, tutors and lecturers (not those in the executive team) and get involved in The FE Week podcast. 

Meanwhile, the broader regional and national media also need to hear our voices.

Please consider reaching out to your local newspapers, online publications and the mainstream print media too, particularly if you have a story relevant to a local area, such as an interesting learner or employer case study, or an opinion on a recent skills policy development that might make a good ‘letter to the editor’.   

So, let’s grasp the challenge that FE Week have put to the sector ̶ and make our voice heard loud and clear. AELP are always on hand to support our members to amplify their voice ̶ but we need your help too! 

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