We anticipated that COVID-19 and the national lockdown would have a significant impact on our training provisions and learners, although at first we were unsure to what extent.
It soon became clear that our training centres would need to immediately close for the foreseeable future. By this stage, we knew we had begun a new chapter at Strive Training – a heartbreaking, exhilarating and ultimately triumphant chapter called ‘It’s Show-Time!’
For us, taking ‘time off’ was never an option.
Why? Because nothing gets in the way of a Londoner’s dreams and aspirations. We knew that hard-working people and their families were counting on us to help them upskill, so they could forge their futures. We knew we had to be there for them.
How would this be possible? The answer, of course, was to go digital.
What followed was two manic weeks filled with a whirlwind of round the clock Zoom calls. By the end, our first milestone had been reached – we had gone live with 21 fully-accredited online qualifications.
Learners could complete an array of qualifications at their own pace, with ongoing assistance from our super-human assessors and learner-support staff, who play a key role in our students’ learner journeys. I remember our Chief Executive, Jonny Phillips, telling the team, ‘If learners ever feel like they are working through this qualification isolated and alone, we have failed.’
It was a herculean effort by every Strive team member. The curriculum planning team, the quality team, operations, marketing, IT, assessors and learner support – everybody had a role to play in making this a success.
We quickly transitioned our classroom-based learners onto the brand-new online system, which was a huge relief as we were able to continue providing local residents with the support that they had relied on for the past ten years.
When our first batch of new learners happily enrolled, we couldn’t believe how far we’d come in such a short time. Juliet Afejuku-Aganbi was one of the first. She was looking for opportunities in social services, and was attracted to the ‘Safeguarding, Prevent and British Values’ qualification, which she has since completed – and has even found a job because of it!
‘I was used to classroom learning and training, so honestly I was a little concerned with learning remotely,’ Juliet told us. ‘However, all my fear, anxiety and uncertainty quickly disappeared, because, from day one of my course, I felt supported and guided.’
As mentioned, Juliet has now found work and recognises the role the course played in her achievement. ‘The knowledge I gained has been invaluable to me in my daily life, in my job applications and with preparation for interviews,’ she said. ‘More importantly, I have applied this knowledge and experience at my interviews. The course helped me to get a job that I am very happy with!’
During this pandemic, we have also been able to support a completely new audience – furloughed workers. We find that these learners are particularly inspiring as they are choosing to actively make their time-off as productive as possible.
One example is local resident Khadijah Amani, who took advantage of her time in furlough to complete the Level 2 Information, Advice and Guidance qualification. While she has been working in the field for many years, she was looking to back up her skills with an accredited qualification to help propel her career. She told us, ‘I was familiar with much of the content, but in my head it was disorganised and vague. By taking the course, I learnt a surprising amount – I was really impressed.’
Even now with over thousands of learners on our books, we have no plans to slow down. There’s still a long way to go and our goal is to deliver more to our learners – more courses, more support and more employment opportunities.
Before the pandemic began, a colleague made an off-the-cuff comment that stuck with me: ‘Make sure you grow through what you go through’. It’s a mantra we have all kept in mind. In the past few months, we have all certainly gone through a lot, but Strive Training has also grown exponentially because of it, coming through these testing times stronger than we could have ever imagined.