Since 2005, Skills Forward has been pioneering new ways of working for the education and skills sector; enabling digital delivery of skills assessments for colleges, training providers and organisations, and supporting the sector through periods of great change.

As the business celebrates its 15th anniversary in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, Skills Forward is putting its years of expertise and innovative range of edtech solutions to good use to support learners and apprentices during this challenging time.

Whilst the long-term implications of COVID-19 on the sector and the wider economy are as yet unclear, Skills Forward is supporting education providers in the short term with its eLearning solutions.

With face to face delivery next to impossible in the present climate, many training providers are worried about their funding and the future of their apprenticeship programmes and apprentices. 

Skills Forward, which operates as part of the not-for-profit NCFE Group, has been supporting its customers to stay online and on track by scaling up their eLearning activities. Using software such Skills Portfolio, an e-portfolio application to support and evidence online delivery, apprentices have been able to continue their training remotely.

“We have always aimed to respond to the needs of the sector and stay ahead of the curve, diversifying our offer wherever necessary as part of our commitment to our core purpose to promote and advance learning,” said Dan Howard, Managing Director at Skills Forward.

Managing Director Dan Howard front centre with the Skills Forward team at their Mansfield headquarters

“We are all collectively facing the new challenge of coronavirus, and now is the time to pull together and support each other as a sector and ensure the futures of the learners who will be impacted. Where we can use our expertise as an eLearning provider to help learners stay on track and providers to stay afloat, we’re more than happy to do so.”

One such customer is SD Consultancy, a training provider based in the Scottish Borders which has been adapting to the new requirements of the coronavirus pandemic with the support of Skills Forward.

Sarah Dalrymple, Director at SDConsultancy commented: “We have been using Skills Portfolio for a few years now and the more we work with the software, the more we appreciate its value and importance in the work that we do. It is easily accessible, easy to use and is fit for purpose.

As we went into lockdown for COVID-19, it was really important to us to continue to support our apprentices and candidates and we were delighted to be able to continue to work with them using Skills Portfolio. A lot of work can be done remotely and we have worked closely with a large number of our candidates to ensure their progress is supported and their learning and development continues.

“We are delighted with how it works for us and our candidates, and although we definitely cannot say that it is ‘business as usual’, we can most certainly say that we are offering comprehensive support through Skills Portfolio.”

“In everything that we do at Skills Forward, our learners come first. We are driven by the individual successes of the people who use our learning platforms and access our curriculum and feel incredibly privileged that we get to play a part, however small, in shaping a person’s future,” Dan added.

“Ensuring that apprentices can continue to receive teaching means that we are supporting training providers to access their funding to remain operative. Training providers are a vital part of the skills system and will be integral, alongside apprentices, as we rebuild our economy. We’re especially proud to champion eLearning and the capabilities of online delivery.”

Skills Forward has come a long way in the last 15 years. Launched in 2005 as ‘For Skills’, the company has grown exponentially and now employs over 30 people at its offices in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire and Houghton-le-Spring near Sunderland.

With a customer base spanning FE colleges, private training providers and some of the UK’s biggest employers including British Airways, Tesco and the Royal Navy, in the last year alone, Skills Forward provided over 2.9 million assessments to the post-16 employability and skills sector and daily sees over 18,000 learners logging in to its systems.

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