Flexible Workforce Development Fund – Open University

The Open University in Scotland

 Supporting Small to Medium-sized Enterprises

Many of Scotland’s small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) need to upskill or reskill their workforce – now more so than ever before, due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Open University’s Business Barometer 2020 report shows that 60% of employers in Scotland continue to struggle to find the skills needed to fill vacant roles.  Some report taking more than 26 months to fill vacancies.

Many have opted to recruit temporary staff.  A very costly, short-term approach, Scottish employers spent £460 million plugging short term skills gaps in 2020.  That’s a 60% increase on the previous year.

“This short-term approach is not just costly, it is also unsustainable, particularly for SMEs,” explains Suzanne McQuade, Business Relationships Manager at The Open University in Scotland.

As Scotland’s largest provider of part-time higher education, with over 50 years’ experience of providing innovative distance learning, The Open University (OU) is uniquely equipped to support SMEs to upskill and reskill their workforce.

The Scottish Government recently announced a new phase of funding to enable SMEs (organisations with less than 250 employees) across Scotland to access training up to the value of £5,000 to support workforce development, to position them to respond to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, to adapt to new ways of working and maximise the opportunities to restart, recover and renew.

A £1 million grant has been awarded to The OU in Scotland as part of the Scottish Funding Council’s Flexible Workforce Development Fund 2020-21: Phase 2.

SMEs can choose from a tailored suite of training for their employees, delivered online through the OU’s innovative learning platforms. It is a highly flexible way to access the training organisations need – in the workplace or from home – whilst accommodating operational requirements and optimising business efficiency.

Training options available from The OU focus on Scotland’s national skills priorities:

  • Health & social care
  • Leadership & business
  • Digital & IT
  • Green economy

With a range of selected courses at Scottish Credit & Qualifications Framework (SCQF) Level 10 – undergraduate – or SCQF Level 11 – postgraduate – or through industry recognised provision, options include OU short courses, microcredentials and modules.

 Short courses allow you to explore a subject without the time commitment, to help you build a new skillset and offer continued professional development in your career.  Individuals can choose from a range of short courses, including in-demand and transferable professional skills such as project management and finance.

For example, care workers could consider the OU’s very popular management-related short courses, to support aspirations to move into a more senior role, such as the New managers’ toolkit, Developing better teams or Developing your leadership style.  A short course in Improving diabetes management is also available.

Home Managers, deputy care managers or nurses seeking post-registration professional development may wish to consider a microcredential such as Management of uncertainty: leadership, decisions and action.  But what is a microcredential and how could one benefit you?  With a microcredential you can rapidly learn new skills and techniques that you can immediately apply and take back to your workplace.

Microcredentials are university level online programmes that are sector endorsed and designed to help you build professional skills.  They take an average of 10-12 weeks of online study to complete which equates to only 9-12 hours of learning per week.  At the end, you gain academic credit to help you advance your career as a standalone credential and the flexibility to use it towards another qualification later down the line.

Additionally, a selected range of undergraduate and postgraduate modules are available including Managing in a changing world and Making strategy with systems thinking in practice, which offer individuals the opportunity to develop higher level leadership & business and digital & IT skills.

To find out more about how The Open University in Scotland can help your SME to develop a future proof workforce through the Scottish Funding Council’s Flexible Workforce Development Fund, please visit www.open.ac.uk/business/flexible-workforce-development-fund