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Swatpro: A decade of success in training

For many years, experts have been aware that the UK has suffered a skill gap in many industries and one of the problems was an over-rigid, box-ticking approach to training the population.

Colleges and other academic institutions often didn’t seem attuned to the needs of employers or the reality of the 21st Century workplace.

A responsive approach was needed, with flexibility; courses tailored to meet real needs and teaching real skills.

This is where the South West Association of Training Providers Ltd (Swatpro) came in.

Founded 10 years ago with the encouragement of the Skills Funding Agency (now the ESFA) to develop the kind of responsive, flexible training employers and learners in the region needed, it’s been quite a decade for Swatpro.

The not-for-profit association has grown from 4 partner employers and training providers to 22.

Swatpro partners offer training in most sectors of the modern economy: from accountancy, ITC and business skills to clinical health and health and social care; from catering and hospitality to building trades, Engineering and Early Years Education and many more categories.

One thing all Swatpro partners have in common is that they are sector specialists, providing bespoke courses to suit clients, and utterly committed to best practice.

“We’ve seen quite a lot of growth in our first decade,” says Swatpro Chief Executive Rod Davis.

“But it’s been strategic growth, targeted to meeting industry expectations – not just growth for growths’ sake.”

Rod has been involved in management in the training sector since the early 1990s and has seen many changes in education-for-work, but his pride at being at the helm of a successful organisation like Swatpro is clear.

“It encourages an effective model of training and we hear this time-and-time-again from employers and learners,” he says.

“We’re proud to have been part of helping so many South West employers train the skilled staff they need and we’re even prouder of the individuals we’ve encouraged to fulfil their potentials.”

With Swatpro’s partners delivering the tailored training and apprenticeships for clients, the organisation acts as an effective “back office”: advising; being across new legislation, grants and courses; monitoring trends; helping administration and sharing best practice.

From small beginnings, Swatpro now has 17 staff – and are recruiting another three.

“It’s just the demand for what we do has grown. We've got a really great team here, their hard work is integral to Swatpro's success."” Rod explains.

“Legislation in this area can be quite complex and is prone to changes. We have to ensure our offer is relevant at all times and helps our partners – and the community they serve.”

The biggest change Swatpro has seen in its 10 years is the reform of the apprenticeship system in 2017.

The new Apprentice Standards were developed in collaboration with employers and now are available for more than 600 different job roles – a major expansion on the traditional system.

“Again, the approach has been responsive to employers’ needs and addressing genuine skill shortages - the collaborative ethos which drives everything we do,” notes Rod.

But what of the future? The Pandemic has thrown up unique challenges to businesses and other organisations. How has Swatpro coped and what lies ahead?

“Things have been tough for many, but our flexible approach of tailoring training to the needs of employers and learners has enabled us to operate throughout the lockdowns,” Rod says.

“Now things have opened up again, demand is really taking off. Employers realise the competitive advantage they give themselves by having well-trained staff.”

It looks like Swatpro – and the responsive approach it embodies – has many more birthdays ahead!

Swatpro: A decade of success in training