As the year draws to a close, many people are thinking ahead to 2017 to start improving their work skills or gaining new knowledge and study to enhance their job prospects. Many may even be thinking about changing career. Businesses too might wonder how they can access training to help their employees’ career development.
The opportunities seem endless, for both vocational in-house training or for online courses, so we’ve taken a look at what’s available, globally and locally. As the websites are the go-to place when doing research, we were keen to see how the different organisations present their offerings.
As there are so many courses out there, we’ve decided to focus on 2 main categories: online “improvement” courses, and those that offer in-work career training for young people, mainly through apprenticeships and Further Education.
Here are a few we selected:
On-line “improvement” courses
Based in County Galway, Ireland, ALISON offers “Free Online Courses from the World’s Top Publishers”
Describing itself as a “for-profit social enterprise” ALISON believes that everyone has a right to an education and that education should be free.
Anyone with access to the internet can partake in any of its 750+ free diploma and certificate courses.
The website divides these into 9 distinct categories so that users can quickly pick an area they’d like to study. Courses include business and enterprise skills, digital literacy and IT skills, personal development and soft skills, languages, and health and safety and compliance.
Finding information about any chosen course is straightforward, with a detailed course description, the expected learning outcomes having completed the course, how many hours of your time the course will take and if there are any assessments. Students are required to study and complete all modules and achieve a score of 80% or more to qualify for whatever certification is available.
The most popular and the latest new courses are highlighted to help make the right choices.
If you’re a teacher, manager or even group of like-minded friends you can create a group of up to 1,000 learners through ALISON Study Groups, a free cloud-based learning management system (LMS).
This collaborative learning facility allows course leaders to import the learners, group them, assign different courses, set deadlines and report on progress, all from an easy to use dashboard.
In addition there’s the ALISON community with more than seven million-strong members globally who can share their experiences of learning achievement.
It’s all pretty impressive.
Our score: 9/10
The Digital Garage
The Digital Garage provides free tutorials and courses from Google to help you grow your business or career.
As you’d expect from its name, the courses mainly focus on mastering digital marketing, but within that they cover everything from creating a website to online marketing and from search to social media.
Courses can be done entirely on-line, or learners can drop into either of the 2 Digital Garage sites in Leeds and Birmingham.
There they provide free training seminars, 1-on-1 mentoring sessions, and co-working spaces to enable participants to brush up their digital skills in person.
There are 23 topics and anyone completing all 23 earns the Digital Garage Certificate of Online Proficiency.
Finding out about what’s included in the topics is simple, with each topic broken down into around 23 bite-sized lessons.
There are also free webinars to dip into.
The site is great if you’re only wanting to concentrate on one aspect of learning, and for those with access to Leeds or Birmingham to attend courses it’s even better.
Our score 8/10
FutureLearn has hundreds of free online courses from top universities and specialist organisations to choose from, and boasts over 4m “students”.
Finding the right course is fairly straightforward – prospective students can browse the 14 categories or explore 20 collections – each containing a number of courses.
For example, categories include a diverse range of subjects such as history, business and management, on-line digital, and sport & leisure.
Each collection is a hand-picked selection of free online courses, to help participants discover a new passion, understand a subject in depth or become an expert in their chosen field.
For instance, the Get Ahead in Marketing collection includes courses on Why We Post: The Anthropology of Social Media from University College London (UCL) and Digital Marketing: Challenges and Insights from the University Of Southampton.
Each course listed has full details of its content and what anyone completing it might gain, plus the length of the course and the hours per week anyone might need to commit to.
Every course has a start date and you can register in advance. Once the course has started you can join in as long as it is still running – typically they last only a few weeks. Once you’ve joined a course you can dip in and out of it any time (even when it has finished) and still comment in any discussions. Courses are also regularly repeated.
To complete a program and earn an award, you need to complete all course modules, buy certificates and pass a final assessment.
Subjects are covered in great depth and are ideal for career development or preparing for further study. The courses do require a good deal of commitment, but the choice is vast.
Our score 9/10
Lynda.com, from LinkedIn
Lynda.com from LinkedIn, an American based on-line learning site, has a huge range of courses – around 5,000 – in 3 main categories: Business; Creative; Technology.
Its stated aim is to help anyone achieve personal and professional goals, and since its inception in 2003 has helped over 364 million members worldwide make connections, discover opportunities and gain insights.
Courses are delivered through video tutorials and are accessible through a variety of platforms meaning participants can jump from desk top to laptop to mobile and still continue their studies.
Details of each course are well laid out, and the length of each module of each tutorial is clearly stated.
There’s an opportunity for a free 10 day trial, and if you set your mind to it, it might be possible to cover quite a lot of learning in that period. For example in theory it would be possible to take one of the Learning Paths Programmes to become an Excel 2013 Microsoft Office Specialist in the 21 hours allotted to the course, or an E-Book publisher in 27 hours.
After the free trial payments start at £19 per month, depending on the plan you choose. This fee also gives your LinkedIn account Premium status once enrolled.
It’s a good site with a comprehensive range of courses, the downside being the cost when compared with other sites which are free. However, £19 a month is a small price to pay if completing the courses sets you on track to make your fortune!
Our score 9/10
Virtual College, based in Ilkley, West Yorkshire is one of the leading providers of e-learning in the UK.
The company provides on-line courses to individuals and companies worldwide and offers cost reducing, time-efficient training.
Its training (unlike some providers) extends to actual qualification creation.
Virtual College is also home to several e-Academies; specialist websites that concentrate on specific sectors to meet training needs and deliver important updates on policy and legislation in those sectors.
The company’s most recent addition is an Apprenticeships e-academy to help organisations and individuals get the best out of apprenticeships to everyone’s benefit.
There are more than 300 courses for organisations or individuals to purchase in categories such as Food Hygiene, Healthcare, Health & Safety, Safeguarding Children, and Retail.
Course details are easily accessible on the website with lesson plans, expected duration and cost all specified.
For example a course covering Agreed Ways of Working: Complaints and Incidents lasts 45-60 mins and costs £15.00 + VAT, compared with How to Manage Conflict, also lasting 1 hour but costing £30.00 +VAT.
As well as courses bought and completed on-line, the Virtual College can also work with companies to provide tailored solutions to their needs.
The company focusses very much on the staff training and regulatory needs of businesses rather than the individual’s personal development and the website reflects that.
A good business-to-business website.
Our score 8/10
iversity.org is a Berlin based digital learning platform for higher education and professional development. It enables universities, non-profits and knowledge-based companies to share courses awarding recognised credentials with participants from around the globe.
Its objective is to make education more accessible, more affordable and more personalised by providing people with the opportunity to take courses from institutions all over Europe, wherever they are.
The organisation offers a wide range of courses – too diverse to list – but not all are in English. A drop down menu on the courses page allows potential participants to select courses in the language of their choice, although there are very few in other languages other than English (27) and German (8). Most of the courses listed had already started, but there were 4 in English about to start.
Courses fall into 2 categories MOOC (Massive Open Online Courses) which are free and PRO (professional) for which a fee must be paid.
Information about the content of any of the courses was comprehensive and easily accessible.
A support page (the link found at the very bottom of the home page) has answers to any question you might have, but we think the link would be better placed somewhere more visible – say at the top!
Not a great deal of news and the latest blog had been posted in March 2016…
Our score 7/10
The Open University
The Open University was the world’s first successful distance teaching university – founded in 1969, 3 years after it became a Labour Party manifesto commitment.
The OU accepted its first students in 1971. 25,000 people enrolled and 20,000 registered on a course – at a time when the total student population in the UK was only about 130,000.
Student numbers steadily increased and study was through late night TV broadcasts and residential schools.
As more courses and subject areas were introduced the importance of career development grew and professional training courses were offered alongside academic programmes.
Fast forward to the 21st century and there are now in excess of 200,000 students learning with the OU – many of them accessing course materials on their smartphones and tablets, studying when and where it suits them best.
As you’d imagine from such an organisation the information on its website regarding course content is fully accessible and comprehensive. It includes the type of careers your qualification will equip you for, or the subjects you might study to take a particular career direction.
In most cases to study an OU course requires no previous qualifications, but understanding that potential students may wonder if they will be able to complete a course, each one has an “Am I ready?” page, plus there’s a general “Can I do it?” page where a call-back may also be requested.
Fees are around £5,572 for 120 credits, which is the equivalent of 1 year’s full-time study and on that basis it is estimated that a degree qualification will cost £16,716. The study may be spread over several years and payment can be monthly at 0% interest.
A great organisation for those who wish to commit to a period of study with a good qualification at the end of it. The website fully explains how anyone may go about this, and we believe it fulfils its original social objective of using technology to bring high quality degree-level learning to people who had not had the opportunity to attend traditional campus universities.
It might not be as visually appealing as some websites, but the content is the best you could wish for.
Our Score 10/10
The Knowledge Engineers
The Knowledge Engineers deliver online digital training to organisations and individuals worldwide through an online learning platform – The Digital Knowledge Centre (DKC). Access to the DKC is by registration, so we can’t really tell you much about it!
However The Knowledge Engineers website tells us that the DKC is “for businesses and individuals looking to thrive in the digital world. It offers a comprehensive range of interactive digital marketing courses on a state-of-the-art learning management system and delivers fast, targeted and personalised learning on desktops and tablets . . .
“ . . .The organisation can create a tailored solution for your company based on cutting-edge face-to-face skills courses, in a vast array of subjects . . .”
It says its skills courses will increase the digital marketing knowledge and skills of organisations to enable them to deliver marketing effectiveness and business results.
The client list is impressive, so what they do must be very good, but although there’s an icon for every course that’s offered, none of them click through to any further information. The only way to find out more is to contact them. Which we suppose works for them, but not for us.
Our score 5/10
Apprenticeship Courses and Further Education Establishments
Self-improvement should not be restricted to those with access to the internet and we also chose to look at training providers and Further Education establishments who offer hands on practical courses to help young people start their careers.
Webs Furniture Training
WEBS, based in Beeston, Nottingham, offers government sponsored City & Guilds and PIABC approved Apprenticeship Programmes for the furniture and associated industries and promotes links with the industry, schools and referral agencies. myCloud Media have helped WEBS for over 2 years developing their website and to manage on-going digital marketing for the organisation.
It also works closely with the Construction skills and the Proskills National Skills Academy to develop new qualifications to meet the needs of its sector industries.
The WEBS mission is “to make a positive impact to the UK and local economies by delivering a high quality and progressive training service that is responsive to the needs of learners and employers”.
It’s courses are designed for young people (16-23) who are interested in starting a rewarding and practical career and WEBS collaborates with local businesses to provide in-work training opportunities for its students.
Courses range from cabinet making to upholstery and warehousing to business administration and the details of each course (including the expected qualification) is clearly set out in a downloadable and printable PDF.
The website also includes a section on available vacancies for students to apply for.
There’s a very good news section (even if we do say so ourselves), with upcoming events highlighted, as well as success stories and information on legislation.
All in all a great organisation providing practical help and recognising that not everyone wants to go to university or follow a course of intellectual study!
Our score 10/10
Derwent Training Association
Derwent Training Association (DTA) based in Malton, North Yorkshire, was founded in 1988 by a consortium of innovative industry leaders to recruit and train young engineers.
DTA offers courses to meet the needs of employees and employers, and these include Advanced Apprenticeships in Mechanical Manufacture; Electrical and Electronic Engineering; Fabrication and Welding; Maintenance; CAD Design; Project Engineering and Quality Engineering, as well as the Higher Apprenticeship which combines HNC/HND in Mechanical or Electrical Engineering and an NVQ Level 4 in Manufacturing Engineering.
Courses are generally delivered and assessed at its Malton site, over a number of days depending on the course structure, and course dates are all listed on an easy to find calendar. In-house training is also offered.
Those considering applying for a course at DTA can listen to what other apprentices say about their experiences and can also read a long list of employers who have DTA apprentices working for them. We liked that these companies each had a link to the website so that the prospective trainees could see what type of organisations they might be able to find work with.
Applying is also easy through an on-line form, or by asking for a call-back.
The website provides a link to the Apprenticeship Vacancy Matching Service Website where candidates can search by job sector and location to see what Apprenticeship Vacancies come up in their area and apply directly using the website.
Although there is plenty of news, it’s tabbed on the side so might be missed. This would be a shame as it’s worth reading!
Again, another great website offering practical, straightforward and accessible help to young job seekers.
Our score 8/10
JTL, with its head office in Wrexham, is a national body and was born in 1990 from the merging of the Electrical Contractors’ Association and the Unite, the Union.
Its purpose was to manage training in the electrical sector.
After 10 years it became a charity offering a number of services, including Advanced Apprenticeships, Training Courses and NVQ Assessments, within the building services sector.
These services include four main disciplines – Electrical; Plumbing; Heating and Ventilating and Engineering Maintenance.
JTL works with 3,000 businesses and claims to train more apprentices than anyone else in the building services engineering sector, with 5,000 currently serving apprenticeships.
Only 1 in 10 of those who apply are taken on, but 80% attain their qualifications every year – higher than the 60% national average.
The company has training centres throughout England and Wales, with 20 different colleges in Yorkshire and the North East alone. Each region has a list of colleges and current vacancies are all listed by region. There is also a list of live vacancies from another link on the website.
Information for would-be apprentices, for their parents, and for employers is easily accessible, although the link to Training Circuit, the JTL magazine for employers was disappointing when the only available document was over 8 months old.
However other news articles on the website are regular, well-presented and topical.
JTL also offers training courses other than apprenticeships and traineeships. Its latest Training and Development brochure is also downloadable and details all the available training programmes and costs for those already working within the industries who are looking for professional development training opportunities.
Our score 8/10
Rochdale Training was formed as a charity in 1966 by the heads of leading local manufacturing employers primarily to manage and support the training of Apprentices. Over the last fifty years the company has grown considerably and now provides training to companies throughout Lancashire & Greater Manchester.
In terms of apprentice training it offers apprenticeships in Engineering; Business; Performing Manufacturing Operations (PMO); Warehousing & Distribution; Sales; Retail and Childcare.
Although there is a good section on what an apprenticeship involves and the type of person who is suitable, the website appears to lack the full information about specific course contents.
Success stories are not up to date, with the latest being 2013, and there are few testimonials.
News is there, but takes some finding, is sparse and not very inspiring.
Apprenticeship vacancies are easy to access and apply for, with the website claiming there are 80 available. Not all are listed and there is an expectation that candidates will contact the administrator for further information.
There’s a good variety of options available with Rochdale Training, but we think they’re not quite as well presented for accessibility as other training companies.
Our score 7/10
Calderdale College in Halifax offers various opportunities for study, including apprenticeships.
On an annual basis the college has more than 500 apprentices in learning with over 300 local and national employers – from micro business to some of the region’s largest employers, delivering high quality training programmes.
Apprenticeship courses range from Intermediate level to Higher level and cover 25 different sectors, such as Business; Construction; Children & Young People; Painting & Decorating; Hair & Beauty and Digital Marketing.
For those wishing to take up an apprenticeship the details are reasonably easy to navigate, with course details clearly laid out. News and events are well laid out, easy to find, readable and interesting.
Our score 7/10
Bradford College offers a wide variety of Apprenticeships in 17 different categories from construction and engineering to dental and pharmacy.
The college claims to have good links with local industry, which provide a supportive network for learning and also important business contacts for the future.
The Apprenticeship programme is delivered in partnership with City Training Services www.citytraining.org.uk
A little difficult to navigate the Bradford College Apprenticeship tab takes the candidate to a list of courses, which on clicking a specific course takes a further link to the available job vacancies for that course – on the CTS website.
This list, however, is excellent giving full details of job, employer, pay, location, etc.
To find the actual course needs another click on the apprenticeships tab. Courses are revealed and a click gives full course information on a pdf
On the downside there’s no news or success stories on the CTS website, and nothing much on Bradford College either.
Good selection, plenty of information, but not that easy to find!
Our score 6/10
Founded in 2008 as part of a merger between Dewsbury College and Huddersfield Technical College, Kirklees College has become one of the biggest colleges in the country.
Delivering its own apprenticeship programme, Kirklees College claims to offer the widest range of work-based learning opportunities across Calderdale and Kirklees.
The college currently has around 2,000 students across 30 occupational areas, all employed and working in over 1000 companies throughout the Kirklees and Calderdale regions.
Courses cover 12 different subject areas – including Process Manufacturing, Science and Sport.
The courses are easily searchable by category and the details available for each course, including length of study, location, and qualifications. There is also a handy link to “progression” which suggests further courses or job opportunities.
The apprenticeships vacancies tab downloads a PDF document with the latest vacancies listed. This is a poor way to present the opportunities, and the details available are fairly uninspiring compared with other colleges’ vacancy information and accessibility.
News articles are well presented and informative, but the link to them is not obvious.
The website generally is full of great images, but the content has a number of grammatical and spelling errors, which always doesn’t inspire confidence!
Our score 7/10
NLT Training Services
NLT Training Services is a GTA (Group Training Association) memeber with Training Centres situated in Chesterfield and Scunthorpe, and has a charitable status.
It was set up about 40 years ago and specialises in engineering and manufacturing related subjects.
The organisation’s fully equipped workshops allow young people the opportunity to train in a number of engineering skills, including
- CNC Machining
- Bench Fitting
- Welding and Fabrication
- Pneumatic and Hydraulic Engineering
- Electrical Engineering and Installation
- CAD/CAM Design and Manufacturing
It also recently introduced the Evolve Engineering Programme; aimed at 16-18 year olds interested in gaining hands-on engineering experience, which provides an opportunity to achieve a nationally recognised qualification whilst preparing for the world of work in a varied and rewarding industry.
Evolve programmes include the following subject areas:
- Electrical Engineering
- Mechanical Engineering
- Fabrication & Welding
As well as engineering NLT offers apprenticeships in business related topics such as Business Administration; Leadership and Management; Accountancy; Health &Safety, and Warehousing and Distribution.
Disappointingly, NTL’s website contains information that was out of date.
The apprenticeship vacancies all had a deadline of over 6 months ago, and although the organisation has a schools’ events programme, the one on the website was for 2015. In addition the course listed under the “Up and Coming courses” tab had already taken place a month earlier.
No doubt NTL is busy training the latest batch of new recruits!
Our Score 6/10
Leeds City College
Leeds City College (LCC) was formed when 3 of the city’s FE institutions merged in April 2009; becoming one of the UK’s largest FE establishments.
LCC now has 40,000 students studying at its 5 main campuses – on part or full-time courses from academic to vocational; including courses in basic skills, apprenticeships, A Levels and Foundation Degrees.
The College is noted for a number of key specialisms, with National Skills Academy status for Community Sport Enterprise, Creative & Cultural Skills, Food & Drink Manufacture, Hospitality, Retail, Financial Services and Sports & Fitness.
The website is bright with great visuals – the use of so many images of people gives it a very personal feel.
As well as comprehensive information about every course – including what entry qualifications any prospective student may need to start the course and what they will expect to gain from completing their studies – the website also includes interesting “facts and stats” about the college.
Prospectuses are downloadable, but the site requires you log in with an email address before the download can take place.
Keeping the site vibrant and up to date there’s a blog, a news page and an events page.
A few case studies as per the LCB site would be a good idea, but overall a pretty good website!
Our score 9/10
Appris Charity is a not for profit registered charity and is part of the same group (GTA) as NTL Training Services.
Established in 1967, it too specialises in the delivery of Engineering Manufacture apprenticeships, with 150 member companies providing positions for 400+ apprentices across West Yorkshire
Appris also offers apprenticeships in Marketing, Business Administration, Warehousing and Supply Chain Operations & Management, as well as commercial courses in Management, Personal Development, Health & Safety and Electrical Technical courses.
The website is functional but a tad dull and we felt the information given about the content on apprenticeship courses was a bit lacking in comparison to other websites, and in comparison to the other courses that Appris provides (such as City & Guilds and BTEC)
The apprenticeship vacancies are up to date and there are a few (4) testimonials from students who are studying at Appris, but there is no news, no blog and no events. They might be happening, but they’re not shouting about it!
Our score 6/10
Leeds College of Building
Leeds College of Building (LCB) is the only specialist further and higher education construction college in the UK. Since its establishment in the 1960’s, LCB has built up a regional and national reputation for its comprehensive range of courses.
Building and construction courses are available at all levels and range from practical, work related programmes designed to prepare students for work in a variety of trades, to technician courses that will help them progress to further study.
A high level of interest in the construction industry has led to a large expansion in the number of students at LCB, with a current estimate of 7,500 people studying full or part-time and in subjects from asbestos awareness to working at heights and bricklaying to wood machining.
The new website is probably the most comprehensive one we came across in the education sector.
Every possible course is listed and a simple word search at the top will reveal a whole list of courses in a particular subject (we tried bricklaying). Each listed course is clickable for full information about the course category (14-16 Skills Academy; Part-Time; Higher Education; Employer Services; School Leavers) and the content, timescale, and final qualification.
In addition there’s a search facility by category/attendance/subject – each with a drop down menu.
If that wasn’t enough there’s a downloadable prospectus powered by Yumpu.
Plenty of up to date news and some interesting case studies demonstrate why LCB has such a great reputation with students and employers alike.
Our score 10/10
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Article by : Tim Bennett