Upskilling workers and businesses to rise to new challenges

Date posted: June 16, 2020

Midlands Enterprise Universities have upskilled thousands of workers during the coronavirus pandemic to help fill the acute staff shortages in the NHS and also help businesses adapt to new ways of working.

Creating a skills hub

In April, Birmingham City University reopened its Seacole Building as a ‘skills hub’ to help students nearing the end of their studies, current NHS staff and returning employees to learn key techniques and skills needed in the frontline battle against coronavirus. University staff worked closely with the skills teams in local NHS Trusts, especially University Hospitals Birmingham, to make sure the skills taught are in line with Trust requirements, and that their training makes the biggest impact in supporting patients. Approximately 95% of the university’s student nurses, in the last six months of their studies, offered their services for an extended placement with the health service and so far, over 270 have been trained.

Offering free training for pharmacists

Similarly, the University of Derby is providing free online training and information for pharmacists who have been redeployed to NHS 111 services. NHS England and NHS Improvement, in partnership with Health Education England (HEE), first commissioned the University of Derby to develop and deliver an Integrated Urgent Care Clinical Assessment Service (IUC CAS) pharmacist programme 18 months ago. The course aims to introduce pharmacists to the IUC setting. To support the rapid upskilling of pharmacists supporting the new NHS 111 COVID-19 CAS service, two of the course’s three modules have been made available online for free.

Expanding healthcare courses

The acute shortage of staff within the NHS is nothing new and will continue to be a cause for major concern long after the COVID-19 pandemic has abated. In response, Nottingham Trent University has expanded its range of healthcare courses to include Adult and Mental Health Nursing degrees and degree apprenticeships. The courses are approved by the Nursing and Midwifery Council and will give students the clinical, leadership and caring skills needed to enter the profession as a Registered Nurse.

Upskilling businesses in the digital arena

With more and more activities moving online as a result of the global health crisis, Midlands Enterprise Universities have also been upskilling businesses in the digital arena. De Montfort University Leicester surveyed 700 businesses and entrepreneurs to find out the issues concerning them most and have produced tailored support to address those topics, as well as collating and running an online hub for the latest business information. Their teams are running free webinars, online sessions and one-to-one business coaching to help people embed new business models and adapt to new ways of working. They have also launched the #DMUbusinesshour every week on Twitter to answer any questions businesses have and signpost them to available help.

Improving cyber security

In Herefordshire, more than 50 SMEs are set to benefit from a newly developed suite of workshops funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and The Marches Local Enterprise Partnership. The Cyber Quarter – Midlands Centre for Cyber Security, supported by the University of Wolverhampton’s Cyber Research Institute (WCRI), is delivering the online courses which will cover all aspects of cyber security, from managing a potential attack to building a resilient strategy. Later this year the university and Herefordshire Council are opening a new £9m cyber security centre of excellence which has been part-funded by the Government’s Local Growth Fund and the ERDF.

Supporting mental health issues

Another issue many organisations are facing because of coronavirus is employee mental health. As well as providing free online training for business owners in continuity management, Coventry University has launched a series of free webinars to help with the challenges of working remotely. The courses are part of the Thrive at Home initiative set up by the Government-funded Mental Health and Productivity Pilot (MHPP). Led by Coventry University in partnership with the University of Warwick, West Midlands Combined Authority and Mind (MHPP), the pilot is aimed at helping employers improve the mental health of their teams, thereby reducing absenteeism and presenteeism and increasing productivity.

Boosting skills for workers

Increasing economic growth and prosperity is one of the MEU’s key priorities and addressing the skills needs of employers is high on the agenda. During the pandemic, the University of Lincoln’s National Centre for Food Manufacturing has been offering free Functional Skills English and Maths courses for workers who are furloughed, working from home or self-isolating. The online sessions relate to their work and home life and participants can gain a university certificate or a nationally recognised qualification with City & Guilds. By offering opportunities for people to improve their skills, not just during the pandemic but throughout their lives, the MEU is also supporting the Government’s Industrial Strategy which aims to generate good jobs and greater earning power for all.



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