Simon Jordan’s Blog – November 2015

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Thinking like a business at the AoC Conference

This month my attention has turned to how Further Education organisation have planned for survival, particularly those which offer Apprenticeship and training provision. Perhaps it’s not practical (or necessary) to pack tins of food and sleeping bags into the under-stairs cupboard in case of emergencies, but in the education and training sector, the changing ways in which funding is awarded and training is provided can ultimately seem like a threat rather than an opportunity. So we’ve decided, as a leading Apprenticeships and training provider, to work differently. We’ve taken a look at what the future could have in store for organisations like us and we’ve planned to survive. We’re choosing to look at tougher times as a chance to re-think our business model – because that’s what I believe Further Education has to become: more business-like. Colleges and training providers need to secure funding just as corporations do. Traditionally, we have done so by relying on funding from the Government and local authorities on top of the income we generate ourselves. In times of financial crisis, education finds itself in a precarious position of need. When cuts are made, Further Education is often hit hard. Einstein once said; “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over, but expecting different results.” How can we look to secure our futures in unpredictable times by hoping that the way we’ve done things will still serve us well? @Katethemis presented at the AoC Conference on behalf of Themis, sharing more thoughts on these very important subjects earlier this month. Click here to download the full presentation.

Value in Apprenticeships

A recent speech by head of OFSTED Sir Michael Wilshaw sent the press into a frenzy over Apprenticeships, as he claimed the push to create more Apprenticeships has led to a “dilution” in the quality of programmes being offered. According to the regulatory board, a “rise in poor quality” has “devalued” Apprenticeships, especially focusing on the retail, care, administration and accounting industries. So how do we counter the media negativity that has grown around Apprenticeships following this rather damning report? We can’t ignore the media’s concerns about the value of Apprenticeships; potential Apprentices are bound to ask questions following the coverage. We also can’t stop the flow of information – nor should we want to. The media’s searchlights have rested on “poor quality” Apprenticeships and I think we should view this as a positive. Employers should not be using Apprentices as cheap labour. An Apprenticeship is a valuable and hugely beneficial programme for both the Apprentice and the employer, enabling the gaining of skills within the workplace while employers benefit from a more motivated workforce and the ability to gain work-ready employees with the support of an accredited training partner (like Themis). Apprentices are helping to bridge skills gaps and re-enliven workforces across the country and are for the most part rightfully applauded as real alternatives to Higher Education and full time learning.  For many, Apprenticeships are a gateway to a career they love. Apprenticeships are vitally important to the Engineering and Construction industries as they promote Advanced training to help fill the skills gaps of the future and promote much-needed interest in the diverse range of careers available. Discussions like Sky’s recent TV debate about the value of Apprenticeships might be temporarily damaging, but I think in the long run they will serve to simply “clean up” some of the less virtuous programmes and employers out there. The true benefits of Apprenticeships are already there to be seen (see our success stories for some great examples) and the positives vastly outweigh any negativity currently thrown their way. Valuable, useful and vastly beneficial Apprenticeships are, thankfully, here to stay.

Sleeping on the job

In a recent study by scientists at the University of Geneva, an age-old tactic for re-energising the mind and boosting morale was tested for its effectiveness and found to be one of the best ways to improve mental capabilities and reduce stress. The exercise, which subjects were asked to partake in for varying lengths of time throughout the working day, was carried out while concentration, memory and productivity were monitored and proved to be very successful; not to mention cost effective to implement. So what was this miracle exercise that increased productivity and morale for next to no cost? Napping. A decent night’s sleep is a complex issue. Some of us need lots, some of us survive on very little (although according to studies, not getting enough sleep causes neurotoxins to remain in the brain, road accidents and CEO burnout…). Sleep, by all accounts, is important to us all, which might be the reason why so many articles are written each year on the subject. After the University of Geneva study, interesting takes on sleep (the amount we all get, the correct way to do it, the best way to relax etc.) have cropped up all over the national news. The most intriguing of which is the notion that employers should think about offering their employees the option of taking a 90 minute nap mid-way through the day to boost creativity and productivity. If this sounds like Google HQ quirkiness gone mad, pay attention to this next part: Some of the world’s biggest companies have already taken up the naptime gauntlet, with positive results. Ben & Jerry’s and Nike both have “quiet room” facilities for their staff in their Vermont and Portland headquarters and the Huffington Post considers workday naps an important part of productivity enhancement. Even NASA encourage their staff to take short naps to improve their performance – the NASA nap has become a legend amongst startup companies in the USA and pilots across the world flying for Continental and British Airways use the term for catching some zeds in between shifts on international flights. This great post from Inc.com gives some (very unhelpful) tips on how to nap at work, highlighting just how far away our working culture is from embracing napping. It’s interesting to think that this might not always be the case, though, given what scientists and global employers are saying on the subject. Stranger things have happened.

And Finally…

  3D printing has advanced in leaps and bounds since the first patent application for RP (Rapid Prototyping) technology was filed in 1980 and we’re seeing a big increase in the number of Apprentices and employers who are keen to get to grips with this exciting and innovative technology. I’m really interested in the different ways companies have been embracing 3D printing to promote their products. Creative campaigns like Coca Cola’s “Mini Me” and Nokia Lumia’s fully customisable 3D printed covers quickly set the bar for the public’s expectations of what could be created in 2013. Now we’re seeingadvanced materials like porous pills and even houses in China being printed out in 3D. So what next? 3D Printing

These large, porous 3D printed tablets rapidly disintegrate in contact with water, and can package controlled, personalised dosages © Aprecia pharmaceuticals

It’s exciting to see the serious medical and technological advancements of 3D printing take place before our eyes. In our lifetimes we might see 3D printed aeroplanes, robots, cyborgs – we’re already seeing printed prosthesis… the limits to this tech are endless. What I’ve loved seeing recently was Nike’s embracing of 3D printing by grabbing a patent for 3D printed trainers. The patent was filed in 2012 and was granted earlier this year. It’s for an automated strobel printing, which simply speaking, removes the human element from the sizing and moulding of shoe production. Strobel lasting is a specific way of affixing uppers to the footbed of a shoe which has always been done by hand until this point. Will we see fully printed Nike Air Max gracing our streets within the next five years? I don’t doubt it at all.

Source Url: http://www.themis.ac.uk/simon-jordans-blog-november-2015/
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