Where to begin?

We can’t say that 2020 wasn’t a shocking year for all of us, but who would have thought this time last year that it would have turned out the way it did?! We certainly didn’t. In fact, this time last year we were very hopeful that we would be able to continue delivering courses as “normal”. We never would have guessed that schools and education centres would have been forced to close!

2020 Calendar

The beginning of 2020

January 2020 we set up for another exciting year of improving the lives of people in and around the East Midlands. We had courses planned, venues booked and it looked set to be a great year. Our staff were confident in their roles and we had got our work routine down to a T.

In February we started to get a little nervous… this pandemic seemed to be heading for our shores and other countries had shut down in order to stop the spread. We waited in anticipation of how this would affect us. While we waited, we didn’t sit still! We kept planning for a brilliant 2020; our courses were blooming, learners were excited, businesses looked forward to welcoming their apprenticeships etc. We knew one thing for sure, whatever this pandemic threw at us, we would be able to hit back!

I think it would be safe to say that the announcement in March was a blow to us all, mentally I think we all felt crushed that the country was to go into a “lockdown” situation. Do you remember that feeling as the announcement was made? I think we heard the entire country sigh as one. We had taken the decision the Friday before the announcement to have our staff work from home. The government announcement meant that some of our tutors needed to go on a steep learning curve to adapt their classes for online. Some of our tutors had never delivered a course via this method before. They all took it greatly in their stride.

The second half of March and the beginning of April was a busy time for us, many of our learners were contacting us in a desperate panic; wondering how this lockdown would affect their course and their prospects after their course. We were confident that our tutors would give them the best support ever – and boy, did they step up to the plate! By April all of our learners had been contacted and reassured that we would continue with their course where possible online. For those learners who were yet to start their community learning course, we made the decision that some of our courses could not go ahead as planned. We were devastated, but we had to look as to whether the online option would be suitable for those who needed additional support, and many may not have access to the internet.

Furlough

In April we made another difficult decision; to make some of our staff furloughed. This was a difficult decision for the management to make because the staff were happy to work from home and were still being productive, but with the cancellation of certain courses workloads had lightened. They knew that it wasn’t going to be easy on the staff who weren’t being furloughed as they would need to support the areas of the business the furloughed staff usually looked after.

We still didn’t sit still. We bid for more courses and more training opportunities. We realised that we could put some of the cancelled classes onto online courses with the right learners and the summer looked prosperous.

Even our furloughed staff didn’t sit still. While they were on furlough they attended training sessions for their areas of expertise They got involved in their local communities, and helped others through the lockdown situation and the pandemic. The volunteered. They got involved. They helped.

We really don’t sit still!

Busy street

Throughout the summer we had our Traineeship Tender Funding Call too. This was an exciting prospect for our members and other training providers to join with us to deliver traineeships in academic year 2020/21. This went out all over our website, social media and emails. We had a fantastic response!

Throughout the whole situation we had weekly Zoom catch ups with all the team (including those who were furloughed) where we discussed everything from the bids we were looking into, to the latest craft craze our ladies were enjoying (hint – if you haven’t tried Diamond Painting yet, you’re in for an addictive treat!)

Our furloughed staff rejoined us at the beginning of the summer holidays and we sure enjoyed having them back! It felt like the family coming back together again. There just wasn’t a lot of time for the reunion before we were back to the grindstone and working away as hard as ever as the 2019/20 academic year came to a close! And sadly, there were no friendly hugs in reunion.

2020 – New Office

In amongst all of this we moved offices – even now we aren’t quite sure where we found the time to do such things! We moved into our new office and we started to make it look like “home”. We had great fun decorating and sorting all of our equipment. Laying claims to our desk spaces and making the building look inviting to guests, visitors and learners alike.

It was clear by now that things needed to change for our brand new office space – our Risk Assessments needed updating! So our beautiful new office needed a revamp! We got straight to work marking out 2 metre “zones” on the floor to ensure our staff and visitors stayed safe while they were in the building. We’ve put hand sanitiser stations at the entrance to every room. We’ve created signage to ensure that people understand what we expect of them coming into the office. We’ve got our very own QR code for the NHS Track and Trace system and a paper form to be signed by those who do not have a smartphone (as not all of our learner do).

Our Health and Safety Officer, Sam, has worked bloomin’ hard to make sure that we are all safe when we venture into the office. We can’t thank her enough for all her hard work!

With all of this in place, we were all set to go back into the office in October. We had a schedule, everyone was to be in the office a maximum of 2 days a week and working from home for the rest of their hours… and then we heard the government were announcing another lockdown. We went back to working from home.

While we have enjoyed working from home (let’s face it, the commute to the “office” is a lot easier) we do miss the office chat and camaraderie. We miss hearing the shout of “I’m making a brew, who wants one?” We still have the weekly Zoom chats, and regularly keep in touch, but it’s not the same. We are hopeful that 2021 will see the return to the office for some if not all of our staff!

Looking forward to 2021

Throughout the entire of 2020, one thing that didn’t stop, nor change, was our passion for skills development and our support of our learners. Many of our tutors and mentors reported that they were supporting learners in more than just their subject. Tutors became more than educators, they became a friend, they became a shoulder to lean on (figuratively, of course) and they helped learners to alleviate the stress of 2020. We have kept working throughout the pandemic and we will continue to diligently work towards a better 2021 for learners across the UK.

2020 has taught us a lot, it has taught us how to be resilient in the face of the unknown. We hope to continue this outlook into 2021. As we face the third lockdown we know that we have the skills and opportunities to come back stronger than before.

Take a look at our Courses and Opportunities for more information on what courses are available online.