“It is vital to listen to employers and be able to adapt to their business needs. Commercial timescales can be unforgiving, so training programmes need to match them. The company needs to respond quickly when new opportunities present themselves, but it mustn’t sacrifice quality to get the business. However, it’s not enough to have responsive programmes. You must make sure that employers know what you are doing and are included in the success of their employees.”
Advice for others? “We used to assume that if we did a good job, businesses would use our training again. Stay in constant touch if you want repeat business.”
Ian Harper, Chief Executive of ATG Training
The good practice in detail
The recent inspection report praised ATG Training for its flexibility and responsiveness: “Programmes are flexible and effectively tailored to employers’ requirements. Cycle maintenance has excellent industrial links to major manufacturers, distributors, retail employers, and the awarding body, which provide learners with state-of-the-art materials and techniques and relevant, flexible qualifications. Childcare, retail and warehousing assessors accommodate shift patterns and business pressures well.” ‘Employer Journey’ provides a good overview of the company’s approach to employer engagement.
Providing accreditation for cycle mechanics with state-of-the-art equipment
Mat Clark. ATG Training cycle mechanic training instructor
The ‘CYTECH’ programme was started by the Association of Cycle Traders, to provide a licence to practice for cycle mechanics. When they needed a partner to roll out the programme nationally, ATG Training worked with them to integrate the certificate into a bespoke NVQ framework, providing funded accreditation and recognition for hundreds of otherwise-excluded learners all over the country.
Martin works in a specialist cycle shop in Salisbury and has a passion for bikes: “ATG Training has really good equipment and the staff are very knowledgeable. I’m sure the CYTECH qualification and the NVQ will help my career”, he says. “I’ve learned such a lot on this course, and I’m determined to go on to Level 3 next.”
Matt - Cycle Apprentice
As the Business Development and Engagement Consultant for the Buckinghamshire Education Business Partnership, Vanessa King knows ATG well. She is impressed by their responsiveness and flexibility. “They listen to employers and adapt programmes to fit their needs”, she says. “They’re very flexible. Traditionally, when employers have asked us about apprenticeships, we have directed them to ATG because we know, from experience, that ATG will lead them through the process with clear explanations and minimum disruption. They make it easy for employees to gain a qualification.”
Training cycle mechanics for Tesco
Organising courses is straightforward when you control the timescale, but major employers like Tesco work to tight deadlines. ATG’s unique position within the cycle industry made it the first choice for Tesco when they needed training to start specialist cycle shops in their larger stores.
So, how did ATG change its way of working to meet Tesco’s needs?
Tescos cycles store
“At Tesco, we are always looking for ways to serve our customers better”, says Vicky Wellings, the Technical Manager (Leisure). “The only choice we could offer for those purchasing a bike was a self-assembly option. We realised we needed to extend this offer, so we approached ATG to help us to train our staff to assemble bikes to the required safety standards. ATG staff are extremely flexible, helpful and friendly. They provided invaluable technical advice about setting up the courses which are delivered on our site. That is very important as our staff often have family responsibilities which would prevent them from staying away on a residential course. Sometimes our timescales are unpredictable and ATG Training change schedules to suit our commercial pressures. The staff enjoy their training and it’s enabled us to start our rolling programme to set up bike areas in some stores and separate bike shops in others. We now have a great choice for customers; self-assembly or assembly at our bike shops by fully trained staff.”
David Aimson manages the internal sales team at ATG Training. He is the link between Tesco and the cycle trainers. “Our bike team had plenty of experience of training people working in the bike industry, but this was different”, he says. “We had to start from scratch when no bike shops existed in Tesco. Previously they had sold boxed bikes, so our team had to advise on tools as well as training. ATG Training already had bike courses planned with students enrolled. Our staff were brilliant and with slight schedule changes and some overtime we met Tesco’s demand without detriment to any other customers.”
Flexible programmes that integrate employers’ specialist training
Apprenticeship models can seem rigid. It takes skill to make them fit for purpose for a specialist business. In 2007, a global manufacturer of medical electronics recruited the first cohort of engineering apprentices through ATG.
The company’s second cohort has just begun an engineering apprenticeship with ATG Training. “ATG are so approachable, friendly and flexible”, says their training manager. “When I visit the Future Centre I’m welcomed as if I was part of the company. We enjoy visiting school careers days to get youngsters interested in the equipment. We know about our product, but we aren’t educationalists. In the past, most of our recruits were experienced adults. We needed a partner to help us to recruit, select and train young people, and ATG has made it easy for us.” Planning the programme was a learning curve for both partners. ATG added some key elements to the package, such as training in computer network systems, to ensure that learners got the right technical background. They also spoke to the awarding body to propose revisions to the framework to match current working practices.
The employer is particularly pleased about how the corporate training is integrated into the scheme of work. “We come into the centre every Friday to deliver specialist courses, such as bespoke Health and Safety, which means that apprentices can go out on site with their mentors as soon as they finish their six-week block.” He is proud of the new employees. “They have a fresh outlook and they’ve learned excellent skills. We had 160 applicants for 10 places this time, and we’re sure that ATG Training has selected the ‘cream of the crop’ for us!”
Extending the model to a wider remit
It can be challenging to tackle new subject areas, but this approach translates well into other provision. Whilst apprenticeships are mandatory for engineers, retail workers often have poor access to training. ATG’s new partnership with ‘Performance through People’ (PTP) provides opportunities for local supermarket workers. The inspection report recognised a strength in the way that the retail programme met the employer’s needs: ATG Training meets employers’ needs very well (according to an Ofsted report).