Based in Yorkshire, Intuitions Ltd working with Westrow Academy, True Beauty Academy and Contemporary Hair Academy realised that they and their employers were not maximising the value of integrated Functional Skills within the workplace, with learners not sufficiently challenged to develop their maths and English skills whilst on the job in hair salons and beauty parlours.
This is the situation we aimed to improve by developing an employer- led workplace resource for Functional Skills maths and English that reached across the hair, barbering and beauty sector to over 70 employers. We hoped that this continued re- enforcement and integration of Functional Skills in the workplace would have a positive, measureable impact on our learners’ first time achievement rate.
Learners are not effectively engaged in the development of Functional Skills within the workplace.MICHELLE OLIVER
Director, Intuitions Ltd
Our primary objective was to make our learners realise the relevance of Functional Skills within the workplace, which could not be achieved unless our employers were prepared to support the project. Our starting
point therefore was to work with our employers and engage them with Functional Skills.
We did this through an employer education session followed by focus groups. Having met and talked
with our employers, we developed our resource. Collaboration and communication between the partners was key, therefore we set up a shared communication facility which allowed for joint resource development.
The resource, a paper-based booklet entitled ‘Design the Perfect Stock Room’, centred around the design and fitting out of a workplace standard stock room and included opportunities for client communication, problem solving, calculations, written reports, evaluations and observations. These were all areas that our employers had highlighted as important and would help build apprentice confidence and positive attitudes.
English and maths Functional Skills Level 1–2 sequenced activities were embedded as far as possible and then re-enforced within taught sessions. Employer pre- and post-surveys were collated to evaluate impact including learner and tutor focus groups.
The resource was to be completed by the apprentice in the workplace. Responsibility for assessing and evaluating the apprentice’s work lay solely with the employer.
SUCCESSES & INCREMENTAL GAINS
As training providers, our learning as regards employers and their understanding and appreciation of Functional Skills has perhaps been our biggest gain. It soon became very apparent how little our employers actually knew about Functional Skills.
They had assumed that basic salon tasks such as mixing colour and taking payments would be sufficient for example to meet the maths criteria and were surprised as to the breadth and depth of content. Some even found it quite challenging and were unsure of how to support their apprentices. In certain cases, this frustration bubbled over, with one employer stating that the intervention was an inconvenience and that the responsibility for Functional Skills should remain firmly with the training provider but fortunately they were in the minority.
Over three quarters of our learners stated that being mentored and supported by their employers, through the granting of time to complete tasks within the workplace and the provision of feedback was invaluable. This section of our cohort also had a positive response to the workbook.
Working collaboratively to tackle the challenges of Functional Skills has brought with it a better understanding, improved working relationships and a sense of a shared purpose that between all parties: learners, training providers and employers.
Most learners surveyed felt that working with the employer motivated them to complete the resource, as they would have struggled to do it at home alone.
Director, Intuitions Ltd
As a partnership and within the timeframe, we were not able to monitor the impact on learner first- time achievement rates; however this will be our next step. Having trialled the workbook resource and taking account of the feedback received we will develop and further refine it.
At over 90 pages, the first iteration had a positive impact but was perhaps too large and too time consuming and would benefit from a more modular, multi-media approach with shared employer and trainer feedback responsibilities
For further information on anything you have read here or if you would be interested in hearing about taking part in future project opportunities please contact [email protected].