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How Strode are responding to the apprenticeship reform challenge with UNIT-e and Advantage

Head of Information Services, Tony Braithwaite, explains why the college chose UNIT-e, and how the integrated MIS has streamlined communication and increased efficiencies for students, staff, apprentices, and employers.

Strode College in Somerset is an Ofsted ‘Outstanding’ college offering a wide range of high-quality education and training to the local community. Its Sixth Form has an outstanding reputation nationally for exceptional student progress. The college also offers local and affordable Higher Education, a wide range of adult learning courses, apprenticeships, and work-related professional qualifications.

Strode College has been a UNIT-e customer since 2014. The college chose UNIT-e and Advantage over competing providers due to the close match with their specifications and the initial presentation that focused on the primary requirement of presenting information to teaching staff and students. According to the team at Strode, competitors mostly concentrated on the traditional back office aspects of their products.

Responding to the challenges

In 2014, Strode College was informed that their MIS provider would no longer be updating its product. Faced with an MIS that would soon become outdated, the college tendered for a new provider. UNIT-e MIS was chosen as the ideal replacement, alongside Advantage, a suite of desktop and mobile solutions that improve stakeholder engagement.

The college now faces challenges associated with the introduction of the apprenticeship reform, including connecting with employers, managing employer relationships, matching employers to apprentices and apprentices to courses.

This is in addition to dealing with complex funding, competing with other colleges and training providers, delivering a high standard of education, and achieving cost and time saving efficiencies. Tony Braithwaite said “UNIT-e provides us with one single view of all our data giving us greater efficiencies and reducing complexity.”

Managing multiple touch points

UNIT-e was implementation at Strode College using a phased rollout that successfully ran alongside the previous solution for a period of time. It streamlines the enquiry and application process, automates communication with exam boards, and is a single, integrated MIS that supports the complete journey a student will take during their time at the college.

The functionality it offers also provides the perfect tool for managing apprenticeship reform challenges and allows the college to maximise on the benefits available through the programme. According to Tony Braithwaite, “Multiple touch points for apprenticeship programmes are now all tied together in one place, streamlining communications and eliminating duplication.”

Integrated MIS streamlines communication

Strode College now accesses and updates all the information it needs in one single place rather than using spreadsheets posted onto the walls as they were sometimes doing in the past. This allows the team to see everything that is going on with students, staff, apprentices, and employers in real-time, streamlining communication, providing consistent information to everyone, reducing confusion, and increasing efficiencies. These include:

  1. Increased visibility of student applications, interview status and enrolments, so staff spend less time on administrative tasks
  2. Timetabling and attendance is stored in a single, integrated system, and attendance can even be recorded on a mobile device for fast and accurate interventions
  3. The ability to pay online at the point of enrolment, and communication with applicants anytime and anywhere, providing an improved student experience
  4. An easier way to track and manage relationships with new employers both large and small, levy paying and non-levy paying, helping to be more proactive and compete against other colleges and training providers
  5. Simplified management of apprenticeship funding and reporting ensuring no payments are missed and protecting cash flow

Connecting with employers

The college is currently engaging with a number of larger employers in the region, such as Somerset County Council, the NHS and employers involved in the Hinkley Point project. With UNIT-e and Advantage in place, the Strode College team believe that any additional administrative tasks or management challenges will be easily overcome, and they are well placed to maximise on the new opportunities that apprenticeship reform presents.