This article by Leigh Mills, Head of Inclusive Growth first appeared in FE News on 27 June 2023.
Skills Bootcamps provide learners with foundational skills and practical experience to improve their employment prospects. From a regional perspective, they also play a much more strategic role.
Skills Bootcamps have been designed to specifically respond to local skills shortages as identified by the North of Tyne Combined Authority (NTCA) in consultation with local employers.
These relate not only to where there may have been low skills capacity arising from issues such as the Pandemic, but also to respond to new regional growth sectors and inward investment. Across the NTCA area we are seeing many positive outcomes and hearing compelling stories from individuals who have found meaningful employment after completing the course.
What are Skills Bootcamps?
Skills Bootcamps are flexible courses of up to 16 weeks and all learners are offered a guaranteed job interview at the end of the course. Courses are directly linked to employer needs and the jobs available in our area, including construction, retail, events management and digital skills. The courses are completely free for anyone aged 19 and over who is looking to find employment, up-skill or change direction.
We’ve seen people accessing courses who have been through hard times due to the pandemic (for example, losing their job or business) as well as those who have been trapped in a cycle of long-term unemployment.
Skills Bootcamps also offer a different way of learning, which is appealing to learners who prefer more vocational/practical learning experiences over academic ones.
For example, Mohammed, 21, from Newcastle was working in the fast-food industry. When he was younger Mohammed found college study difficult as the learning style didn’t suit him.
Mohammed said: “I found the college study to be too theory-based, which was tough for me because I learn visually and by doing practical stuff, and I just couldn’t hack it.
“But with the Skills Bootcamp course, you do two-three hours of practical work, and then you do theory afterwards, but it worked really well because the theory was directly related to the practical stuff you’d just completed that day.
“It was all really well lined up and it helped me get my head into the theory because I was actually doing the work first. It’s really helped my confidence in terms of further study too.”
Since completing the Skills Bootcamp and attending his guaranteed job interview, Mohammed is now training on the job as an apprentice bricklayer.
On the Skills Bootcamps that NTCA have funded, 75% of all learners who completed the course went on to enjoy positive outcomes – whether that be through securing employment, up-skilling in their role or starting an apprenticeship.
And while some learners were looking for career change or progression, the majority (66%) were unemployed at the time of enrolment. In total, to date, we have seen over 1,500 individuals take part in NTCA funded Skills Bootcamps.
How Skills Bootcamps are responding to regional growth
In the North of Tyne area, our strategic aims, inward investment and employer consultation told us that we needed more skills across retail, digital, construction, logistics, green skills and events management.
This informed our training provider profile, and a suite of truly responsive courses were subsequently developed.
We’re incredibly lucky to have an outstanding portfolio of arts and cultural venues and organisations in the region, and a really engaging programme of events.
While the pandemic posed significant challenges to our night-time economy, we are now seeing increased appetite for, and investment in, live events.
As such, we were pleased to work with Susan French Events, a local training provider with an engaged network of cultural employers. Skills Bootcamps graduates in this space have gone on to secure work with regionally produced theatre shows and pantomimes, as well as some of the biggest names in music and entertainment as they visit the region as part of large-scale international tours.
Our partnership with Tyneside Training Services has helped us to respond to the national shortage of HGV drivers, while our rail delivery course with Gateshead College is providing learners with a great route into one of our big regional employers, Nexus, as they develop a new Metro line.
We have been able to secure additional funding from the Department for Education to continue to increase the Skills Bootcamp offer across the North of Tyne, expanding the offer of Skills Bootcamps in the Hospitality and Travel and Tourism sectors.
This opens up more and varied routes to employment and we are excited to see more learners growing in confidence, learning new skills and securing meaningful and sustainable employment in our region.
Leigh Mills, Head of Inclusive Growth