The Academies offer pre-employment training courses to provide people with the skills needed to compete for new employment opportunities. Upon successful completion of the course participants are guaranteed an interview. Over 1500 full-time jobs have subsequently been secured in a wide range of sectors such as Cyber Security, Data Analytics, Software Engineering, Software Testing, Artificial Intelligence, Internet of Things and Financial Services to name a few.
Belfast Metropolitan College has played a crucial role in the delivery of the Academies but when Covid-19 lockdown restrictions were imposed in March 2020, they were faced with huge challenges to their existing training model.
Prior to the pandemic, the College, like most educational institutions in the country focused upon classroom based teaching and the associated face to face pastoral care that made the programme so successful.
Online delivery had never been considered for the Academies and the technology wasn't in place for a smooth transition to online learning.
When the restrictions were announced, several Academies were already in progress and there were doubts over the ability of bringing these to completion, as well as the feasibility of being able to bring more on stream in the short term. Teaching style, classroom management and materials required for online learning are very different and lecturers worked extremely hard to adapt their sessions in considerably tight turnaround times, often over the course of a single weekend.
Microsoft Teams had recently been introduced to the college and it was decided that all Academies would be delivered via Teams. This technology has been instrumental to the success of online delivery.
Teams has allowed the Academies to not only mitigate against the Covid-19 restrictions but also embrace new opportunities. One of these has been the ability to have employer representatives from across the globe be able to share their expertise with participants, facilitating a level of access that would have been challenging to achieve pre-pandemic. Employers have also been able to drop-in to sessions in a way that would not have been previously possible, providing valuable insight to students.
The pandemic has also seen an increasingly varied new stream of participants, with increasing numbers wanting to re-train due to uncertainty in their previous employment sectors. One example of this has seen four ex-pilots successfully re-train through the Academies in recent months, following the downturn in demand in the aviation industry.
This opportunity for re-training those who have had to re-evaluate their career paths due to the pandemic will likely be of considerable importance to the economic and social recovery in the months ahead.
By embracing innovation and technology, the Academies have not only been continued throughout the pandemic, they have excelled. 25 programmes have been completed by the College during the Covid-19 restrictions. Global accounting giants KPMG have set up a base in Belfast, creating 200 jobs with the potential for 160 of those to be filled from Assured Skills Academies.
Funding was also secured from the Department for the Economy for six new Academies in collaboration with Dublin based multi-national IT services provider, Version 1 over the next three years. The company has also subsequently invested more than £1million in its Belfast operations, creating 180 new jobs in the city, a large proportion of which will hopefully be filled by those successfully completing the Academies.
In total, 92% of the 509 participants who have completed an Academy during the pandemic have gone on to secure full-time employment.
Feedback from students completing the online courses has been very positive. One of the beneficiaries of Assured Skills Academies in recent months has been Linda Fettus, who had been preparing to travel to Qatar for a PhD placement in Sports Medicine when Covid-19 struck. Its subsequent cancellation led her to reassess her career plans.
Linda turned to Belfast Met's online Future Business Skills PwC Academy, supported by the Department of the Economy. The virtual training included project management, business analysis, leadership skills and management, which Linda completed successfully and as a result has since gained employment with the PwC Operate division.
Commenting on her experience of the Academy Linda said,
"I can't thank Aidan Browne, Senior Lecturer at Belfast Met and the teaching staff on the course enough who went above and beyond to support me. I have extenuating circumstances and the level of support I received has really helped me to excel.
The personal development experiences and my new business skills have equipped me to progress my career goals for the future and I would whole heartedly recommend that graduates consider applying for an Assured Skills Academy training course."
Louise Ward Hunter, Principal and Chief Executive at Belfast Met also added,
"Belfast Met is pleased to continue to deliver high quality Assured Skills PwC Academies during the pandemic, resulting in vital job opportunities to graduate learners. On behalf of the College, I would like to congratulate Linda on completing the Future Business Skills course and wish her every success in her new position with PwC."
For more information, details on forthcoming Assured Skills Academies and links for registration please visit here.
To learn how the training academies can help graduates, watch the Assured Skills video below.