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Back to School with Project Skills Solutions

Back to School with Project Skills Solutions
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Back to School with Project Skills Solutions
Siobhan Stirling - Sharp Minds Communications for Capital Space by Siobhan Stirling - Sharp Minds Communications for Capital Space
Owner/Director - Sharp Minds Communications Ltd

When coronavirus struck, like many businesses Project Skills Solutions were thrown quite the learning curve with the urgent move online. Now, as the autumn term rolls around and the world opens up again, Project Skills Solutions’ Sam Barton explains why they are eager to get back to business and back into the classroom at our Waterhouse Business Centre.

Ahead of their time

From the company’s conception, they have utilised the internet to bring proper health and safety training to people, a concept that was revolutionary at the time. Barton explains that, in 2004, the founder, working as a project manager in construction and on oil rigs was seeing delays and issues with finishing projects due to a lack of proper health and safety training. To combat this, he started sourcing this training and subsequently found that he could sell these courses and skills to people online, making them one of the few companies to do so at the time; thus, Project Skills Solutions was created, and their pioneering approach of advertising their services online led to their growing success.

Schools out for the pandemic

After over 15 years of success, the Basildon-based company moved their classes into our Chelmsford centre in 2019, just one of around 25 hotels, managed offices, and conference centres all over the country that they used as locations for their training courses. That was, of course, until coronavirus hit.

Sam recalls: “In the beginning, everyone was put on furlough whilst the managers and directors worked to ensure the paperwork was all in order for a smooth return. That was until we realised this thing wasn’t going away, so we had to start coming up with alternatives.”

Not an easy problem to solve

Whilst the move online at the beginning of the pandemic was hard for all of us, Project Skills Solutions ’ integration into the digital realm held many of its own awkward and unique challenges since there were so many factors to consider. As Barton explains: “All of our courses are approved by an awarding body. We had to speak to them and discuss the ways we could deliver the course without sacrificing its integrity. People needed to know we were still performing.”

Not only did the awarding bodies have to approve, but also trainers had to be consulted so see if they could deliver the courses online, as well as students. These each posed their own issues; now instead of directing clients to the location of the course, Project Skills Solutions were having to help them to log on: “In the beginning, we had lots of people, particularly those in construction, who were still working as usual, saying they’d wait for a classroom course, then, they opened up to the idea of virtual a bit more. We offered free test calls before the course was even booked to get them used to working online and ease their minds.”

It was a strategy that harboured surprising results and revealed unexpected gems, such as the learning platform Kahoot: “It allowed us to make the online courses more interactive and helped to build a surprising amount of rapport. Sometimes we found that at the end of the two or three days, people were more concerned about who won the most Kahoots and were too busy adding each other on LinkedIn to worry about the outcome of the course!” Sam says.

It is elements of their courses like these that have, somewhat surprisingly, resulted in a client base that is just as eager to learn online as they are in person in the future: “Especially with larger companies, they want to offer the options for both, to mirror their working environments and we are happy to provide.”

So, will School be in session again?

Despite the success of online learning, nothing compares to the real thing and so Project Skills Solutions were more than happy to return to the Chelmsford site once again.  Tentative at first, Project Skills Solutions’ nerves were eased by the amazing team over in Chelmsford. Sam states that “Hotels really didn’t make the same kind of arrangements regarding the pandemic and social distancing. But Capital Space were great: being transparent on new safety measures, allowing for cancellations up to two days in advance; these all provided peace of mind, especially when we were first thinking about moving back to face-to-face teaching. We were never sure if people would feel comfortable enough to book a course!” The staff at Chelmsford clearly go the extra mile for Project Skills solutions, contributing to even better feedback from trainers and delegates regarding the customer service that is provided.

With the move back to normalcy well underway, school is back in session and Project Skills Solutions are looking forward to resuming their face-to face classes, whilst also continuing to build their online offering. The challenges which the pandemic posed will likely allow them to realise new levels of success - a welcome reward after adapting so well during those difficult times.

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