2020 has been unchartered territory for all of us and, just like the uncertainty in every other walk of life, the education and housing sectors have been hit with challenges to face and lessons to learn. As employees and learners have settled into the ‘new normal’ of working and learning from home, providing satisfactory facilities to allow them to do just that has been interesting for organisations such as The Learning Foundry and The Regenda Group.
To find out what lessons The Learning Foundry and its housing apprentices have taken from the COVID-19 crisis, we spoke with Kirsty Rothwell, Housing Internal Quality Assurer (IQA), and Customer Service Advisor Amy-Lea-Evans - who recently graduated with a distinction for her Level 3 CIH qualification. We also spoke with Andy Carberry, Director of Care and Support at The Regenda Group, to find out how the organisation has adapted, and to hear any lessons the social housing sector may have learned.
The Learning Foundry, as an organisation whose primary goal is to ‘make talent shine’, put distance learning at the forefront of their initial response to the COVID-19 crisis. New technologies were embraced by staff, including Microsoft Teams, Google Classrooms, and Zoom - and because of this commitment to adapt quickly, tutors were able to continue to provide a high-quality service to learners. With that said, what does a Learning Foundry tutor feel they have learned from the experience?
Kirsty Rothwell is extremely passionate about delivering The Learning Foundry’s CIH accredited courses and, admittedly, took a while to adapt to her new ‘virtual’ reality.
“We began delivering one-to-one sessions via Microsoft Teams, it was a complete shift in terms of using technology to engage learners and it took a while to get used to the idea”, said Kirsty.
She continued, “I needed to do a lot of research into learning to engage and motivate learners from a distance through the use of technology and I have learned a lot in the process.”
The pandemic has altered pre-existing perceptions and beliefs amongst employers and indeed from some within the education sector that all learning must be done face-to-face for learners to get the most benefit from their qualifications. In fact, the switch to distance learning has helped The Learning Foundry to successfully develop their blended teaching methods.
“Many of the employers didn’t think their housing learners would receive the same high-quality education. With learners adapting well and many achieving a distinction, employers have brought learners back from their break in learning early because of the success of our online delivery,” said Kirsty.
Amy-Lea Evans, Customer Service Advisor at The Regenda Group, is a prime example of someone who has adapted well to learning from a distance. Amy’s initial motivation for taking on the qualification was to build knowledge and confidence in her role, and she has had no problem achieving that ambition. While the COVID-19 crisis changed her learning experience, it didn’t change her positive perception of her CIH qualification at The Learning Foundry.
“We no longer had face-to-face workshops and we had to speak through emails, or virtually through Microsoft Teams. I had to adapt, but the support I received from my tutors was just as good as it was before,” said Amy.
The lesson from her experience learning from home, according to Amy, was that she learned to deal with and adapt to change, a vital attribute to have in the housing sector. She has turned the challenge into a positive and would recommend others who work in housing to upskill with a CIH accredited course.
“I think if you’re new to the housing industry, or even if you’re not, it’s really beneficial, because it helps you to understand your role a lot better. It has really given me that essential broader knowledge,” said Amy.
While lessons have been learned at The Learning Foundry, not only by learners but at a management level too, The Regenda Group and the social housing sector has also had much to learn and digest.
“As difficult and tragic as the circumstances have been since the outbreak of COVID-19, I think there have been positive longer-term lessons learned”, said Andy Carberry, Director of Care and Support at The Regenda Group
“The power of partnerships and networks were pivotal to us in those early days of lockdown and meant that we were able to broadly come together, to be more agile, responsive and to continue service deliveries in creative ways.”
At the core of social housing are the people and their communities, and the current crisis has taught The Regenda Group to be more creative and agile in that duty of care. According to Andy, the organisation has reached out to vulnerable tenants, using face-to-face check ins through digital platforms like Whatsapp, and have even introduced a new innovative staircase model for care leavers, allowing for services to reflect the needs of young people at the time they need them.
Lockdown has been a difficult time for those that deliver CIH qualifications, for ambitious housing learners and for housing associations, but through adversity some valuable lessons have been learned. While these unusual times are as unwanted as they are unprecedented, the lessons learned should help to contribute to a stronger more resilient sector for many years to come, able to adapt swiftly to whatever challenges are thrown its way.
If you would like to learn more about upskilling your housing staff or hiring an apprentice, please click here https://www.thelearningfoundry.co.uk/housing-qualifications or contact us on 0300 123 8088 or email email@example.com.