Carol Watson, Operations Manager, has been with UK-based training provider Oracle Training for over 18 years. Oracle currently boasts two sites, one in Doncaster and one in Rotherham, and has been in business since 1999. Oracle’s two directors, Sally Marsh and Diane Logan, are heavily involved with the day-to-day business of this successful organisation including making time to still teach full-time as well as developing their strategic direction. Carol joined just two years after they opened and now describes herself as their “right-hand man.”
Carol is heavily involved with the apprenticeship programmes at Oracle Training. Currently, they run Level 2 and Level 3 Hairdressing and Beauty apprenticeships, producing highly qualified and capable students year on year.
The majority of the 50 employers they work with are within a 10-mile radius of one of their centres, and many of those employers have been with them since the beginning. They have built strong relationships with their apprenticeship employers which gives them the opportunity to carefully match their learners’ ability and personalities with a prospective employer because they also know the culture and personality of each salon thus creating the perfect fit.
In order to fully prepare learners for the rigorous dedication, drive and passion required for the apprenticeship programme, the centre also utilises the benefits of a traineeship programme. They recognised a gap in some students’ expectations of what an apprenticeship really is like, including the amount of work required to succeed in such a role. They find that the traineeship gives learners first-hand experience working in a salon, whilst cultivating universal skills like commercial awareness, communication and boosting their confidence before they commit to the full course of an apprenticeship. This foundation of knowledge drastically improves the learner experience and the majority move on to the Level 2 apprenticeship in as little as six weeks after having started their traineeship.
Carol praises the importance of keeping the employers up-to-date and communicating transparently about Oracle Training’s expectations, to help salons get the best out of their learners. This is especially crucial, now more than ever, with the implementation of the new Apprenticeship Standards which place a far greater emphasis on employers aiding students’ learning. Additionally, she also regularly provides employers with positive feedback about what is going well in the programme to help them keep their motivation and boost learner attainment, saying, “It’s about telling employers ‘your learner’s doing really well at the moment. They’ve done fantastic and it’s showing because you’re doing such great training with them in the salon’.”
For Oracle Training, the most important thing is truly the learner’s journey. Carol says, “That’s what it’s all about. That’s what we’re here for–passing on our skills and our experience to make them the best that we can.” And the current Coronavirus crisis hasn’t changed that. The organisation has used VTCT’s partnership e-learning platform, Pivot Point LAB, as well as developing zoom lessons to keep their learners engaged and bolstering their knowledge throughout this uncertain time. Always looking to go the extra mile, they are also creating kits for learners to grow their practical skills at home.
One tremendous example of the result of the centre’s passion for their learners is Loren Daley, a recent apprentice at Oracle Training Consultants. She has just completed her Hairdressing Level 2 apprenticeship, achieving a Distinction in her EPA, and is excited to delve into her Level 3 qualification. When asked about what has kept her inspired she said, “Hairdressing is what I have always wanted to do. From a young age, I knew that was the path I was going to take. Being on an apprenticeship I have gained a vast amount of knowledge, experience and most of all confidence—which is the key to building up a strong clientele.”