Learning fit for the Future of Work:
What we learned from delivering the first Sector Skills Academies
iungo Solutions were proud to partner with Cardiff and Vale College to realise the first ever Priority Sector Skills Academies in Wales. From an initial discussion in November 2021, to achieving sign-off in mid-March 2022, and going live on the 4th April, we have collaboratively delivered three 35-hour-per-week full-time intensive upskilling courses designed to meet the needs of local industry.
We were the primary delivery partner for the FinTech Wales Front-End and Back-End Developer Coding Academies, delivering more than half of total content across the two courses, and the majority of the technical qualifications. These academies achieved the support of large employers in the Financial Services industries including Admiral, Principality Building Society, Hodge Bank and Deloitte.
We also designed and delivered a third Sector Skills Academy with Cardiff and Vale College, the Industry 4.0 Coding Academy, to address the growing demand for digital skills within the manufacturing sector in Wales. This academy was supported by recent inward investor inmation UK, Bot-Hive, Control 2K, and Awen Collective.
The academy design has been broadly based on the Assured Skills Academy model in Northern Ireland. However, this is the first time that a Software Development Academy that specifically focuses on roles in the manufacturing industries has been run anywhere. A first for Wales, and a first for the world; cementing Wales’ role as a leader in manufacturing and Industry 4.0.
Funded by the Community Renewal Fund via the Cardiff Capital Region, the objective of the academy was to fulfil the skills requirements of local employers, by equipping candidates to undertake roles in the industry.
So what did we learn from this pilot?….
1. Reskilling vs Upskilling
We were fortunate to welcome a diverse intake of 45 budding software developers across the three academies. From the unemployed, to parent returners, and even former elite sports professionals!
Having played a key role in delivering the academies from start to finish, we have been able to analyse the ways in which these diverse participants have engaged with their learning. What has worked, and what could be improved upon.
From our findings, there are two ways to deliver a Sector Skills Academy. The full-time onion skill model, and the part-time modular model.
Onion Skin Learning
The full-time onion skill model first develops a core of industry specific knowledge to provide context, relevance and direction for future learning. Each layer of the onion adds new skills and new knowledge that depend on and further embed previous learning.
In practice, this means delivering the content in the context of an employer-set or industry-related project, where each learning outcome contributes a puzzle piece to the overall project. In a full-time intensive programme, this approach accelerates the acquisition of knowledge and skills, better preparing the candidate for roles in industry and creating an experience from which they can draw examples in their employer interviews.
The onion skill learning model is well suited to career changers wanting to switch sectors and those who are unemployed.
A new mode of learning emerged from the Sector Skills Academy pilot – a part-time modular upskilling programme for those already in employment in the sector, or for those returning to employment following a career break.
As the name would suggest, the modular learning model breaks the content up into well-defined bitesize chunks that can be delivered in a block-release or day-release format.
This model is advantageous for organisations wanting to upskill their existing workforce to work with the latest technologies and programming languages, thus increasing productivity and competitiveness.
The modular learning model should be delivered on a part-time, flexible basis to accommodate full-time employees who are investing in their skills and their organisation.
2. Agility in delivery
Education is often criticised as being slow to adapt to industry advancements. However, the Sector Skills Academies model has demonstrated just how agile and responsive we can really be to industry needs.
With an initial four month turnaround from conception to delivery, we have continued to evolve and adapt the content and delivery approaches throughout the process.
We surveyed learners weekly on their experience, how it compared to their expectations and how it could be improved. Our practitioner-tutors reviewed this feedback in real-time, making small adjustments to the delivery schedule to improve learner experience and outcomes.
Small improvements included making changes to the format of hybrid deliveries, running assessment masterclasses and introducing learners to key industry tools like Github.
3. Measuring success
Going into these Academies, we focussed on new employment as the key measure of success.
Former Professional Golfer, Richard King, was one of the first learners to secure a position at the Principality Developer Academy, starting in July 2022.
However, our experience has shown us that there are a wide array of positive outcomes to come from the Sector Skills Academy delivery, beyond new employment. Working with Cardiff and Vale College, we have mapped out the progression pathways for Academy learners using the Opus IAG Platform for Education.
Progression from within
Some learners have been able to achieve a promotion or a role change in their existing organisation.
Industry 4.0 learner, James Allen, has successfully applied his learnings from the Lean Six Sigma module to his role as a Manager at the Glee Club in Cardiff.
Fourteen learners have signed up to attend iungo’s 3-day Intrapreneurship Skills Bootcamp in July.
Front-End learner, Saif Qayoom, hopes to create a business based on a mobile app he’s developing from the coding skills he learned whilst at the academy.
Building a talent pipeline for FE
It’s not just companies that struggle to recruit new developer talent. The Further Education sector is also on a drive to find the next generation of lecturers for its engineering and digital provision.
Industry 4.0 learner, Tim Mathias, hopes to kickstart his career with a PGCE at Cardiff and Vale College in September. He’s represented iungo and Cardiff and Vale College this week in Coleg Cambria’s Digital Manufacturing Skills Expo in Deeside where he exhibited his smart sensor project developed during the Academy.
A future of Sector Skills Academies
We’re thrilled with the results of the pilot for the Priority Sector Skills Academies in Wales, and even more optimistic about what the future holds for these programmes. This learning model is truly fit for the future of work.
We look forward to working with Cardiff and Vale College, the Cardiff Capital Region, FinTech Wales and our employers to scale these academies across the region.