We are half way through our Protecting Quay People campaign here at PSS, designed to highlight how the industry and PSS can work together to bring about better conditions in the ports sector. This week, we look primarily at skills and how training is essential for both maintaining safety standards and promoting best practise. We will be hearing from the Maritime Skills Alliance on Maritime 2050, while also gaining the opinion of key board members as to the importance of contextual guidelines. First however, ABP Academy, the in-house training facility of Associated British Ports, share their experience of adopting a more flexible approach to learning and development as part of their commitment to apprenticeships and other colleagues during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Associated British Ports sees apprenticeships as playing an important role in supporting its future talent pipeline. Whilst it is difficult to predict precisely what the future holds in 2021 and beyond, in the light of the current pandemic, the company remains committed to continuing to support current and future apprentices to ensure that they complete their training successfully.
The pandemic has prompted ABP to look at alternative ways to support apprentices, including adopting more flexible programmes that can be delivered virtually. There have already been some positive outcomes including a number of apprentices who have successfully completed their end point assessments during Covid-19 lockdown. Some of the apprentices who joined before this year, have gone on to land full time jobs at ABP during the pandemic. ABP took on two new pilot apprentices in April 2020, as the company was adjusting to different ways of working during the national lockdown. Despite the challenging times, they successfully completed their induction which was adapted to be delivered virtually, so that it could bring them safely into the business, whilst adhering to social distancing rules. They appreciated the fact that their start date wasn’t delayed by the pandemic.
One of the clear trends that has emerged since the beginning of lockdown is that ABP has had to change its programme delivery methods to adapt to an increasing demand for virtual learning. As part of this the company has transitioned to a more blended approach, combining virtual and on site learning. All of ABP’s apprentices and graduates this year have gone through a virtual induction, which differs from past years, when it took place face-to-face. There has been more of a need for active self-study and some training is pre-recorded, which gives new joiners added flexibility and ownership around their learning. Of course some of their training has remained on site, but safety considerations have meant that they would need to work to different shifts and patterns to ensure that social distancing is observed.
Throughout the pandemic, ABP has continued to focus on the safety, health and wellbeing of its employees. As part of this, the company has rolled out ‘Beyond Zero’ safety training for everyone at ABP. It also introduced special training for new starters as well as sharing communications focusing on mental health and wellbeing. In addition, ABP has kept close to the relevant awarding organisations, including the Maritime and Coastguard Agency in the marine sector, in order to ensure that colleagues were able to keep their marine licences up to date despite the challenges presented by the pandemic. ABP has put a strong focus on safety, whether that is for new starters or existing colleagues and it has continued to provide equipment handling training. Where it has delivered virtual training, it has had very positive feedback from colleagues who were happy to share their knowledge and experience, with colleagues from other locations. Beyond 2021, ABP will continue with this extra option, as virtual training brings colleagues from different locations together to enable them to learn, breaking down geographic boundaries. From the Executive Team to port operatives, everyone has benefited from more flexible training and learning new or improving their existing IT skills to adapt to the more remote working environment.
In the past couple of weeks, several headlines have said that a new, promising vaccine could see a return to a relative state of normality in 2021. If true, this would be extremely welcome after a year of isolation and distance. However, it is important to note that until such time as the majority of the populace has been vaccinated, the best defence we have against the virus is social distancing, wearing a mask, and washing our hands. For those of us who continue to work on the quayside however, that is often easier said than done. For those of us who work in training and personal development, where one to one learning is an important component, it can be especially difficult. Later this week, we will be looking at how a member port has tackled the problem and what lessons can be drawn from the experience.