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The new normal at OAS

The training centre is open and it’s business as usual – with a few changes to protect learner progress, boost our resilience, and keep everyone safe on site

As the new academic year begins, the OAS team is delighted to be welcoming new and existing learners into the training centre to gain the skills, knowledge and behaviours they need to future-proof UK manufacturing.

We’re following the guidance that the Government has set out for education providers to ensure that we can continue to provide training to all of our apprentices, as well as taking extra precautions above and beyond that guidance where appropriate.

Bubbles

At the beginning of the academic year, Government guidance changed to remove the percentage cap on learners onsite, instead grouping learners into self-contained ‘bubbles’. Whilst we would normally wait to assign apprentice groupings, this year we established learner groups before induction so that every apprentice is in a consistent learner bubble from the moment they arrive on site. Start, end and break times are also staggered ensuring bubbles remain separate.

This means that we have been able to welcome all learners in our new apprentice intakes into the training centre without the need to restrict groups to morning or afternoon sessions or alternating days. To protect both our learners and our colleagues, we’re managing our ‘bridging risk’ by restricting current access to the training centres to apprentices and those colleagues who are directly required for training delivery. This has also enabled trainers to maintain social distances between themselves when they are not teaching (e.g. completing more desk-based activities).

PPE

Although guidance permits learners to mix within their bubbles without social distancing, to further reduce the risk of the potential spread of COVID-19, wherever they can our learners maintain social distancing (e.g. at desks and workstations), and where this is not possible (e.g. group demonstrations) they wear a face covering.

Our trainers will remain with a single bubble for the duration of each unit, maintaining social distance from their learners or using PPE for training activities where social distancing is not possible.

Building Resilience

In addition to the measures we are taking to reduce the chance of COVID-19 potentially spreading within the training centre, we are also scenario planning and building our resilience to ensure an immediate and smooth transition to remote delivery should greater restrictions come into force (e.g. local lockdowns).

Following the success of our remote training delivery earlier this year, blended learning is now a standard delivery method within our apprenticeships. All first-year apprentices will undertake online learning every Wednesday at home. The morning session will be tutor-led, and we will provide clear self-guided learning and independent study objectives to complete in the afternoon. Progress will be monitored and reported to ensure all learners remain on track. The centre will remain available for any vulnerable learners or learners who are not able to learn remotely (e.g. those without access to the internet at home).

The use of remote and independent learning at this early stage of their programme will instil the right behaviours and attitudes from the outset, supporting the apprentices to be ready and prepared for their ongoing professional development both within and beyond their apprenticeship. We are also increasing and improving our online delivery capability and communications planning.

Ongoing measures – Hands, Space, Face

Finally, we’re continuing to practice social distancing, to encourage and facilitate regular hand washing/sanitisation, to operate one-way systems, and all learners and colleagues must use a face covering when moving around the centre and in communal spaces. There are posters throughout the centre and we issue regular written communications and verbal briefings to remind both our learners and colleagues to keep up compliance with these safety measures.

We’ll continue to provide updates and reminders about the preventative actions we are taking and to remind everyone to stay safe on site. The latest government guidelines are available here.

If you’ve any queries, please get in touch with the OAS Apprenticeship Programme Manager, Donna Pinches, via Donna.Pinches@the-mtf.org or 07870 977487.