Outward Bound course – Diary of 30 years in Business

Outward Bound – 30 years ago this week!

In the early 80’s Outward Bound residential courses were funded as part of ITEC’s training courses and it was something I was fortunate enough to experience first time (although I wasn’t too sure at the time!)

30 years ago this week, in May 1984, our first group of learners (and me) went outward bound in the middle of nowhere to the Brecon Beacons, very beautiful but very remote!   We picked up the coach from the Council Offices, which were then situated in Fodderwick, opposite the Basildon Centre where Westgate Shopping Centre now resides, and set off down the motorway for Wales.   Halfway there we had to stop as some of the learners were not feeling very well. It turned out that their innocent- looking bottles of lemonade contained something much more alcoholic!   A good start! I was already getting a headache!   Arghh!

IMG_0002We reached the remote farmhouse that was going to be home for the next 4 days and settled into our dormitories and sleeping quarters – basic but comfortable and enjoyed a group dinner followed by some recreational games (table football featured a lot if my memory serves me correctly).   We were put into groups and each group took turns on meal duties.   This means that one group per day had to be up early to take over the breakfast duties and one night one joker set the alarm clock for the breakfast group too early and woke us all up at 4am! Ugh!



IMG_0007Over the next few days we experienced caving, orienteering, archery, abseiling, rock climbing and an assault course.   I was terrified of the abseiling but found it was really enjoyable, one of the best activities I’ve ever done! I wanted to do it again and again.   However, the rock climbing, which I didn’t expect to have any problems with, had me quaking in my boots – it turned out I was very scared when I had to climb up with nothing solid under my feet and only very small crevices for footholds – yuk!   The main issue I had was I had to climb up the rock face before I could enjoy the abseil down – one extreme of emotion to the other!   Yes, that is me in the green helmet abseiling slowly down the rock face!   Apologies for the poor picture quality but remember it was 30 years ago (Truprint was our main option then!)

I remember on the orienteering day the weather was very good and none of us had any sun cream!   We were hot, bothered and arguing over which way to go on the map. We finally found our way back to the farmhouse with burnt noses and shoulders and not in the best of tempers!   We were able to release the pent up tension, though, on the assault course which was still muddy and boggy from the rain the day before. I missed a hand hold on the underarm ladder and was heading for a deep mud bath when Mark Robinson grabbed me round the waist and hauled me home – thank you, Mark, I have never forgotten your strong-arm act of kindness!   I remember a mud fight at the end of the course that was very messy but highly enjoyable – we even had mud in our ears but, boy, did we laugh!

There was an evening of ‘midnight manoeuvres’ where the learners had to carry out a mountain rescue in the dark but unfortunately I missed this event as I was struck down with a migraine – it must have been all that sun, arguing, mud and laughing!  It couldn’t have been anything else as there was certainly no restaurants, alcohol or time-off for the trainers!   It was full-on morning, noon and night! *sighs*    (May be one of our learners from 30 years ago can update us on the midnight manoeuvres as a guest blog!)

The caving was wet and cold!   We had to wade through an area of cave called “Lisa’s Gullet” that saw us squatted down and crawling through a small part of the cave half full with freezing cold water. I remember we all surfaced at the other end in wet boiler suits, our boots filled with water and even our underclothes were soaked right through!   An experience I have never been in a hurry to repeat!   I also remember losing a couple of learners and having to go back for them. Where were they? Ah, back round the last corner having a full-on kissing session! Arghh!


Finally on the last day, we had archery. A nice, leisurely game during the morning before getting our coach home. However, the cows in the next field decided to come over and see what we were up to. The learners got a bit nervous when the cows got very close but using an arrow in each hand to extend my reach I was able to persuade them back into their own field. A Lincolnshire lass, born and bred, I was confident handling a few cows! A close encounter was resolved and then we were on our way home!



I remember returning home absolutely exhausted and sleeping the whole weekend away before returning to work on Monday.   It was Malcolm’s turn to go the following year, and he took them to…… Butlins! Yes, with restaurants, alcohol and time off in the evenings!! Ugh!!! *slaps forehead*   As Malcolm can attest to, I have never let him forget this!!


Wendy Vickers


27th May 2014

Why the Apprenticeship Funding Reforms won’t work for smaller businesses #Apprenticeships #Essex

Why the Apprenticeship Funding Reforms won’t work for smaller businesses

Setting the Scene

During a recent visit from our local MP, Stephen Metcalfe, #StephenMetcalfeMP we had the opportunity to ‘soap box’ our concerns about the proposed reforms to apprenticeship funding. Stephen Metcalfe

At ITEC, we are very concerned about the Government’s reforms to the way apprenticeships will be funded and their effect on our small, not-for-profit, community-based business.   The funding reforms will suit large employers and corporations but it is mostly small to medium size businesses that will be put off by them.   Most of our employers are in this category and are concerned that extra bureaucracy and the removal of full-funding for 16-18 year old apprentices will possibly mean they will not engage in apprenticeships in the future.   We believe the frameworks and qualifications should be reformed but to change the way apprenticeships are funded at the same time seems like throwing out the whole bath, not just the baby with the bath water!

Matthew Hancock MP, #MatthewHancockMP tells us that training providers are not delivering what employers want.   Yet we are very busy jumping through many hoops to ensure that all elements of the current SASE apprenticeship frameworks are delivered.   We agree the SASE frameworks are cumbersome, but when they came into being, we were told they were written by employers for employers, so how are we not delivering what they want?

At the moment, apprenticeships are open to 16-24 year olds, with the 16-18 years olds being fully funded and the 19-24 being part-funded. We assist with the recruitment and selection of apprentices, saving the small employer time and money, as well as monitoring progress throughout the whole apprenticeship, including the work skills.   Our employers do contribute to the programmes by paying for the Microsoft and CompTIA qualifications that we are able to run alongside the apprenticeships and have no aversion to paying towards the cost of training when they feel they are getting something extra.   In our experience, the employers supporting Administration or Using IT frameworks for the over 19’s do not agree to paying cash contributions as they either don’t feel they are getting added value or don’t believe they should be contributing extra to the apprentice’s training above what they themselves deliver in the work place. Even when we try to incentivise them with additional courses, they usually end up going with providers who do not charge any contributions.

How will the funding reforms work?

The funding reforms would filter the funding via the employer rather than the colleges and training providers, meaning employers would have to fund the training up front before claiming it back, a real cash flow problem for most small businesses.     We will no longer have the funded resources to help the employers and learners with recruitment or supporting learners between jobs to help them find alternative employment, all things we are able to provide within the current funding.

The reforms would open funding for apprenticeships to employers for staff members over the age of 24.   This means that any employer can apply for funding an apprentice of any age as long as they are in a new job or in a job role with significant changes to their current role.

Some questions need to be asked

What will happen if there is a run of funding applications from larger employers for their older workers to such an extent the budget is used up very quickly?   What is the likelihood of larger corporations taking on a hundred apprentices for just ten jobs?   It doesn’t seem these scenarios have yet been thought out and we are concerned apprenticeships will revolve back into what they were in the 70’s and early 80’s when large employers delivered hundreds of apprenticeships to young people, with higher academic grades, and where few gained sustained employment at the end of them.   Been there, done that!   In fact, ITEC was born out of the training initiatives brought in for young people in the early 80’s to combat this.

Another major concern is the hard to reach 16-18 year olds who didn’t do well at school or who have some learning difficulties.   These learners often blossom with the smaller employers and the smaller training providers that have the understanding and the time to develop them.   These are the young people the larger corporations are likely to ignore or that won’t do well at interview when many learners are applying for the same places.

  • What if the young person disengages or drops outs?
  • Who is going to support them and help them find an alternative employer?
  • How often is the employer going to be able to claim funding for the same job by starting a new apprentice each time one learner disengages?

We predominantly deliver apprenticeships in an area of high unemployment and to young people from schools that don’t achieve the greatest of results. The work training providers like ourselves do is crucial to raising aspirations amongst these young people and offering apprenticeships at aged 16 is the best way to catch and inspire those young people who often come from third or fourth generation benefit families.    Cutting the funding for 16-18 year olds will only limit their choice to staying in school until 18 (when they aren’t doing well at school anyway) rather than exploring other opportunities.   If the funding changes and training providers and employers find they can no longer support 16-18 apprenticeships due to the high cost of delivery then we are doing a great disservice to these young people who may have flourished in an apprenticeship.

Training providers have become experts at working with employers and have proven we can engage with them much better than the colleges, mostly because we can offer delivery all year round.   Sure, there have been several unscrupulous outfits operating in this field but they can be monitored and shut down for poor performance, as has been the case recently.   However, if the funding changes how will employers be monitored?  This is part and parcel of what a training provider does.  We monitor and maintain relations with good employers who wish to take apprentices for all the right reasons.    We make sure that apprentices are treated fairly and we won’t work with an employer again if they’ve proven to be in it for the wrong reasons or have taken advantage of their young apprentices.    Who will protect the interests of the apprentices going forward?

Where are we now?

There has been some consultancy on the new reforms, albeit most of which has been aimed at employers, and we have fed our concerns into this.   However, it is quite disconcerting to find out that the AELP response and the Apprenticeships4England response representing the views of hundreds of training providers, colleges and smaller employers were only counted as 1 response each!

Specialising in ICT, we have been involved with the E-Skills UK Trailblazer and support their training providers’ workshops.   Again, we are concerned because all of the employers who will be trialling the ICT trailblazer are large employers like BT, Virgin Media, Fujitsu, Hewlett Packard, etc. There is no representation from smaller employers and, hence, no feedback from them.

We are passionate about ITEC, young people and #apprenticeships.   We believe that tomorrow’s workforce reflects the time and investment that we put in to them today and many of the employers we work with have generations of apprentices that are now supervising and line managing today’s apprentices.

Wendy Vickers