Variety is the secret sauce for this AAT training provider

In the countdown to the Training Provider Conference in June 2020, we met with previous winner Angela Renshaw of The Apprentice Academy, to hear what makes them such a success, and what’s on the cards for this year’s conference.

Angela Renshaw is a Programme Manager for The Apprentice Academy in Manchester, winner of the Apprenticeship Training Provider of the Year 2019.

Angela first became an AAT Assessor back in 2005 for a small training provider, which she grew to around 120 learners. They went on to win Small Training Provider Of The Year in 2016.

Looking for a new challenge, she joined The Apprentice Academy in 2017, initially to help set up the apprenticeship standard. They only had 8 AAT learners and subcontracted the AAT delivery at the time.

Angela helped grow the programme, before eventually becoming Programme Manager and redesigning the course as a whole. They now have around 160 learners and won Apprenticeship Training Provider Of The Year 2019.

What you do differently with your training?

We like using games and a lot of peer-to-peer interaction. We focus on keeping sessions interesting, interactive and innovative.

The learners attend for half a day each week but, before they start, we get them hooked with a two-day boot camp. This has theory on the first day and an ‘Apprentice-style’ challenge on the second.

For example, for accounting standards we’ll split them into groups, give them some headline acts of what to research and ask them to present back. Then we give the class an exam-style question based on the standard they’ve learnt.

This works especially well for Level 4 Professional Diploma in Accounting students who tend to hate the written work (they’re there for the numbers!). We’ve definitely noticed they can switch off if you start regurgitating legal info.

We also play Kahoot! quizzes with the fastest finger on the phone.

Everyone gets really involved and we give out prizes for the winners. This gets really competitive and creates a great atmosphere in the classroom. 

Next up, I’m trying to develop an app which will tie in with Ofsted’s love of building blocks and memory recall. The learners will receive questions during the week about the week they’ve just completed and also prompt them to revisit lessons from previous weeks. We do it via email/weekly webinars at the moment but an app would be better.

What makes you stand out as an AAT Training Provider?

I like to home-grow staff. I take people from industry and teach them how to engage learners.

I feel it’s harder to unpick bad habits than take someone who’s a blank canvas. People from industry are quite forthcoming and enthusiastic, and we run together.

I have six people on my team and one person even came through as a learner to Assessor, and will be Quality Lead soon. I like to see learners and staff progress. Our staff rarely leave as they know we’re buying into them.

As a training provider, we really care about the learners. They all get an individual learning plan. Online students have weekly webinars and we follow up each webinar with a personalised phone call so we can help them with anything they’re struggling with.

If learners in the classroom need extra help, they’ll be invited to a 1-2-1 with the tutor or coach (I do these too) or invited to a drop-in class where they have access to a tutor who will work through their weaker areas.

We also have an onsite counsellor to help the learners with getting back on track if they have personal problems or mental health issues.

I’m always coming up with new ideas and ways of doing things. The Apprentice Academy gives me the autonomy to do that and is willing to invest. I love working here.

What are your main goals with students?

The key thing for me is the change from the apprenticeship framework to standard.

On the framework there was little differentiation between someone who did an AAT qualification on its own, or as part of an apprenticeship. They both passed the exams and the apprentices just had to do an Employment Rights and Responsibilities workbook.

Now for the apprenticeship standard, they have to understand why they’re doing their job. It’s broken into knowledge, skills and behaviours. For skills and behaviours, they have to complete a portfolio. They don’t just know the process, I want them to know why they’re doing a process. They’re coming out as better accountants.

It’s a massive confidence builder. They have to have an hour-long discussion with the AAT at the end as well. We conduct professional discussions all the way through to prepare them up for these, which really builds their confidence for something that seems daunting initially.

It’s great to see the confidence growth from beginning to end. They go from being shy and reserved to talking directly to the AAT.

What do you think makes a great tutor and training provider?

Those that care – not just turn up, teach and go home.

We do what we say we will, and commit to the learners. We also make ourselves available outside of work hours and take each student on an individual basis.

What do you love about the AAT Training Provider conference?

The conference workshops are really informative and it provides a great opportunity to network with other people and share best practice.

You get so much out of the breaks from talking to other training providers. You’ll get chatting to people that you wouldn’t normally cross paths with, because we’re spread out all over the country. It’s also a lot of fun.

I’m running a couple of workshops at the conference on Preparing Students for EPA (Levels 3 & 4), so make sure you book in for those.

The AAT Training Provider Conference

The AAT Training Provider Conference 2020 provides a great opportunity for training providers, apprentices and students to get involved in their AAT community. And most importantly, reward yourself for your year so far.

At this year’s conference, on Thursday 4th and Friday 5th June in Stratford-upon-Avon, we’ll be hosting talks from a range of speakers, and will also be giving you an insight into AQ2021, and how you can deliver this exciting new syllabus.

Further reading on inspiring AAT tutors:

Sophie Cross is the Editor of Freelancer Magazine and a freelance writer and marketer at Thoughtfully.

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