Can we reduce learner dropout without increasing trainer workload?

20 Mar 2022, 6:00

Training managers end up struggling with caseloads due to the volume of reporting required, writes Brad Tombling

The training provider sector is critical to delivering the full skills complement needed to run tomorrow’s private and public sector businesses.   

The future of the training industry is optimistic. But there are some operational and policy-induced hurdles to jump first.   

Learner withdrawal rates pose one of the most significant challenges to a training provider. According to the Department for Education, 40 per cent of apprentices in England who start an apprenticeship drop out early.  

So training managers are constantly striving to strike a fine balance between the quality of training and increasing the quantity of its learners.    

The government has heralded skills and training as the way to help the country “build back better” after the pandemic – so we need to get this right.  

The question is: where should training providers be focusing their attention?   

Lengthy and bureaucratic reporting   

Growth is rarely a byproduct of doing more with the same level of resource.  

In the training industry, it’s clear that increasing the volume of learners without increasing the resource can impact that intricate balancing act of quality and quantity.  

In effect, it leads to training managers struggling under the weight of an increasing caseload due to the volume of reporting required.  

This reporting is not only for the learner and employer, but also to meet ESFA and Ofsted requirements.    

But anything that forfeits time spent observing and guiding the learner and improving outcomes is detrimental to both the learner and the training manager. 

This means there is a need to modernise business operations.  

Demotivating factors   

Trainers are no longer just trainers, they are more akin to coaches guiding learners in developing the skills, knowledge and behaviours to succeed.

Knowing how each learner is progressing at any given moment and, importantly, how engaged they are in the curriculum are metrics that trainers and managers rely on.   

A lack of motivation and engagement can result in the learner taking longer to complete their training. Or in the worst-case scenario, they may become so unmotivated they withdraw.    

It’s a trainer’s job to keep them on track and engaged while balancing the weight of necessary reporting requirements.

Avoiding the urge to treat every learner the same   

Every learner is different. Some will welcome challenges and others will prefer to comfortably meet the minimum standards.   

Last summer the ESFA did a U-turn on the learning support needs assessment after initially proposing to ban it. The guidance was reviewed to support those with a specific learning difficultly or disability.

But arguably, the principles of a learning assessment and a personalised approach should also apply to all learners at the outset and throughout.

After all, a blanket approach is sure to increase withdrawal rates.    

So how can trainers achieve this?

Here are some tips for managing trainer workloads, while boosting learner engagement:

  1. Build a rapport with learners and measure engagement regularly, anticipating any possibility of drop-out.
  2. If engagement levels drop, adapt quickly to understand why and take positive intervention, which might include altering the curriculum content or by reviewing at their next progress meeting.
  3. Streamline and smooth workflows by tracking the learner in real time to meet compliance requirements.
  4. Build interactive activities into the curriculum to track knowledge and behaviour and use this data to inform future training delivery. 


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