Best wishes from Dan Howard

This is an end of year message for a year like no other and one that I want to use to see past the negative and really focus on the positives and the potential that is all around us. I keep retuning to feelings of immense pride. The education sector, in the face of some of the biggest challenges and unknowns in our lifetime, has shown true grit and determination. 

Providers and delivery staff, despite their own personal struggles, have kept a nation educated. We know that many people did this whilst juggling childcare, home schooling, caring responsibilities and the mental health impact of the pandemic and lockdown. Our talented teachers and tutors have flexed their imaginations and embraced new technology to continue to teach. We’ve all been bolstered by stories of connectivity, kindness, and determination through this challenging time. It is to you; I give my heartfelt thanks. 

I’m proud that our eLearning services were able to provide support to many during an incredibly challenging time. We’ve seen many more providers embrace the flexibility of online initial assessment, eLearning resources and made use of our Skills Portfolio to continue to deliver apprenticeships and training. A stand out example of this is our work with SDConsultancy. The Scottish training provider expanded its use of Skills Portfolio in response to lockdown. The learners and organisation are now reaping benefits including a more positive work life balance, reduced admin and carbon footprint, and improved digital skills for learners. 

Skills will be central to our recovery

With the roll out of the vaccine comes renewed hope. It is fair to say that our economic recovery will be hard, however, there are stories of sectors and roles that have and will play a huge role in how we live going forward, and the opportunities they present for many job seekers. Life has changed, and we must focus on the good that we can extract. 

As we dealt with lockdown, warehousing, logistics and distribution was truly an essential service for many who had no other way to procure goods and other services. This sector has seen huge growth across the UK and investment has followed in new sites. Both teaching and nursing have seen a surge in applications following the valiant efforts of staff across education and health and social care. Alongside this, the UK Government has launched a 10-point plan for a ’Green Industrial Revolution’ which includes 250,000 new jobs. 

This focus, investment and attention has put skills at the heart of our recovery. Education, training and learning have signalled that we are turning a corner. This is no less apparent than the gargantuan feat of human intelligence that has meant that the incredible scientists at the heart of this pandemic, have been able to develop and approve a new vaccine in 10 short months. 

To support this drive for education and skills, this year Skills Forward, NCFE and other education and employment specialists have launched ‘go the distance’. An initiative which is designed to help those who have found themselves unemployed due to the pandemic to find, stay and progress in sustainable, fulfilling employment.

Final thoughts and a HUGE thank you

After a year like 2020, I must say thank you to the team at Skills Forward. Working from their living rooms, themselves trying to juggle childcare and caring, managing with a reduced team, and dealing with the mental challenges of lockdown, they have made me incredibly proud. Their commitment has meant that we have been able to keep our service going, ensuring learners stay on programme and complete their apprenticeships. We’ve also been able to launch new products and services which would not have been possible without every single person involved and the part they have each played. 

Most importantly, thank you to our customers. Without you, we wouldn’t exist, and we thank you for trusting us throughout this upheaval. We’ve witnessed the immense hard work that has been executed and it’s time for a break. Take this time to recharge, celebrate, spend time with family and friends and give yourself the pat on the back you deserve! 

Merry Christmas and all the best for 2021 – we can’t wait! 

Dan Howard

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