2020 has been a challenging year for all of us, but we also saw just how resilient, thoughtful and strong we all are.
With the year starting relatively normal in the UK, things soon took a turn, and after just three months, things looked very different.
With a lockdown in March that changed our lives, we had to adapt – and do it quickly. Key workers continued to work as usual (where possible), others were furloughed, some worked from home and for some people in the trades, while work continued, it was in a very different way.
For Options Skills, training centres were closed, and we had to postpone courses indefinitely. With all current classes across our four centres forced to stay home, it was a difficult time, but we made sure to keep in touch with our students throughout and update them weekly.
Following government advice and strict health and safety guidelines, we were able to reopen our centres in the summer. We reduced our class sizes and rearranged training schedules with plenty of precautions in place. Though it wasn’t easy, our staff worked tirelessly to ensure students were happy with the changes, and we can’t thank our students enough for their cooperation.
Since reopening our centres, things have remained uncertain with the looming question, “will we have to close again?” Thankfully, that wasn’t the case, and despite another lockdown in November, we were able to keep our doors open.
Though social distancing brought some challenges our way, we tried our best to overcome them. Where people can’t or would prefer not to visit us, we’ve got Google 360 tours for both our Manchester and Purley training centres. The 360 tours provide an opportunity to see the centres from the comfort of your own homes.
Our course advisors also created videos to replicate guided visits for each of our centres. These allow for a more immersive experience when combined with our other videos, phone call and email contact.
With smaller class sizes comes more demand for classrooms, so we provided just that. Reworking our ground-floor training space, we created several different areas to suit various aspects of the gas training course. As a result, with additional classroom space and more workshop sections, we can now offer an extra gas course each month in Birmingham. And with the demand for this course increasing, this will now be a permanent feature.
Good News In 2020
Despite all of the bad we’ve had this year, there has been some good news. We hope that’s been the same for you. Given everything we’ve all been through, even the smallest of achievements or the tiniest bit of good news is worth celebrating.
We started 2020 by winning the Feefo Gold Trusted Service Award. Awarded to businesses that collect genuine reviews, it’s a highly-valued badge of approval, and we’re proud to say that our Feefo rating currently stands at 4.9/5.
Speaking of reviews, we also collect feedback on Google, and we hit some milestones this year. Options Skills – Birmingham, our HQ, is currently boasting over 400 reviews with an overall rating of 4.9/5. With over 200 reviews already, our Manchester centre isn’t far behind Birmingham with 4.8/5. And our newest training centre, Purley, has already received over 50 reviews and with great feedback comes a rating of 4.7/5. We truly appreciate each person who takes the time to leave us a review. Positive or negative, we use these reviews to help us improve and evolve, with our students at the heart of any changes we make.
The Options Skills Insider
Such good news deserves to be shared, so we created bi-monthly email newsletters. And after the success of these, we expanded our readership by creating a print version. The Options Skills Insider features company announcements and stories. You can find them in each one of our four centres.
A few things that have recently been featured in The Options Skills Insider are our career development stories. In the summer, we launched our career development team. Their main aim is to find employment for our students, whether as trainees or once they’ve qualified. Unfortunately, lockdown led to a halt in proceedings, but as soon as they could be, the team were back to work. Our first success story was about Kyle, a Birmingham-based trainee electrician who found employment with a local company, Solar RGB. The second saw an ex-footballer-turned-electrician take on one of our London-based students, Jack. With plenty more stories to come, keep an eye on our blog or sign up for our newsletter.
Another place to keep up with us is over on our social channels. This year, we hit over 2000 likes on Facebook. We also surpassed 1000 and 5000 followers on Instagram and Twitter, respectively, and over 500 YouTube subscribers.
In The Training Centre With…
With our centres closed for a few months, filming had to stop. Thankfully, we could release episodes #1 and #2 of our new series – In The Training Centre With… before then. The series follows several different training classes at our Birmingham centre. So whether you’re interested in training or merely curious, the series gives you a glimpse into our electrical and gas courses. Though we couldn’t have predicted the lockdown, these videos have proved useful, allowing students to “visit the centre” without really having to visit.
And now that we’re back up and running and students are training again, filming has restarted. So for the last couple of months, we’ve been in the centres working on episodes #3 and #4.
Looking Forward To 2021
No one could have predicted how it would turn out, so it’s difficult to predict exactly what 2021 will look like, but we’re relatively confident in saying things won’t be back to normal.
With that in mind, we’re not planning on making any changes to class sizes. Due to the pandemic, we reduced class sizes to eight, and it will remain this way for the foreseeable future. As a result, students will receive the same high-quality training we always deliver, just with fewer people around them.
We’ll also continue to offer virtual visits, encourage using our 360 tours and produce more video content to keep Options Skills as safe as possible.
As previously mentioned, filming for episodes #3 and #4 has already begun. So, you can expect to see the teasers, trailers and the full episodes in the first half of 2021. And, we’ll be moving straight onto #5 and #6 filming asap.
Should we avoid a further lockdown in 2021, we’re hoping to train even more students next year than ever before. We don’t see why that couldn’t happen with four centres and extra classes. And with an online portal in the works for staff and students, uploading work and assessments will be more accessible than ever.
So, once again, thank you to everyone who’s trained with us and to all our staff. Here’s to an even – and hopefully much – better 2021.