We heard from Dave Crew, Head of Business Growth and Employer Partnership at Weston College 18 months laters and the impact Covid-19 has had on them.
What impact did lockdown/Covid-19 have on your business?
As with all businesses, Covid-19 brought challenges to our organisation, but in true Weston College style, we adapted quickly and managed to deliver our whole provision online within 24 hours.
There are obviously many strings to our bow at Weston College, we are not just an education provider for school leavers; we deliver training to employers, courses for adults, offer degrees, provide apprentices, etc. and we had to rethink our delivery methods in order to provide the support that our community needed.
We also knew that many people were struggling throughout the pandemic. Whether this be financially or with their mental health, so we put initiatives in place to support people where we can as our college is at the heart of the community. For example, we started collecting food for learners whose families were made redundant due to the pandemic.
How has Covid-19 changed the way you do your business?
Our events calendars are often very full, so to go from physical events to online presented a different challenge, but one that I feel we successfully managed. We launched new initiatives such as Wednesday Working Lunch, Insights from Industry and Build Back Better, all with the aim of providing support to our employer network – which led to several organisations taking on placement students, apprentices, or upskilling through our newly launched virtual learning courses.
We also launched our Covid Recovery Hub, which had a specific focus on how we can help employers during Covid. We focussed on skills, training and also funding, with our teams working tirelessly throughout the pandemic to help our employer network.
Are you able to go back to the way things were before lockdown?
Following the easing of restrictions, we are now back working in the office, and also planning our event schedule for the new academic year. We have already held one event in the Winter Gardens, and we are looking forward to catching up with everyone face-to-face soon.
Our learners are currently on their summer break, but when they return in September, it will be full time in college. Like many businesses, we see the value in virtual communication which will be retained in some capacity, but we’ve definitely missed hosting events and visits by employers and we’re looking forward to getting back to business as normal.
Does your business have any lasting effects of Covid-19?
The lasting effects for us are actually fairly positive, as we can now deliver training to people across the country far easier than ever before. We have several Employment Support courses that are running across England, and it is great to be able to utilise our skills and knowledge to a wider audience.
We have also recognised how important our digital platforms are, which we will put more emphasis on in the future, ensuring that we are doing our best for the environment.
What are your plans for the future?
Our goal is, and always will be, creating brighter futures. With that in mind, we will be launching new initiatives, such as our Career Excellence Hubs, which connects industry with education, as there is a long list of mutual benefits for all parties when we work together.
We will also continue to react the needs of our community, building bespoke training programmes, and launching new short- and long-term courses that develop skills needed locally.
And if you could go back in time, what advice would you give your March 2020 self?
A great question! Always plan for every scenario and back yourself. Because of that planning we’ve managed to thrive during a challenging time and delivered things that perhaps pre-covid we wouldn’t have achieved. Confidence and teamwork are key. I would also say that to myself that nobody can get through a crisis on their own. Thankfully I’m surrounded by talented, dedicated people passionate about working for Weston College and creating brighter futures.