Think Smart was an innovative Somerset-based project which supported work-based learners by training work colleagues to become learning coaches who could their support co-workers and so help them complete vocational training courses.
The three year ‘Think Smart’ project was co-financed by the European Social Fund (ESF) and the UK's Skills Funding Agency. It was delivered in partnership with Sector Skills Councils, Train to Gain, local colleges and the voluntary and community sector.
The project focused on the key relationship between employees’ well-being, how this affects their ability to learn and achieve qualifications, and the impact this has on the productivity of the business. Research by Learning South West indicated that learners who received coaching support were more likely to achieve qualifications in a shorter timescale or succeed where they may previously have given up.
As a result of this, the SMART Business Coaching training programme was developed, which linked the needs of the business with employees’ personal and professional needs. The Think Smart project enabled owner managers and other employees in Somerset to become in-house ‘coaches’ who help colleagues to complete vocational training courses.
A consortium of training providers worked together to support and deliver the Think Smart project in partnership with Learning South West, these included:
• Yeovil College
• Strode College
• Richard Huish College
• Vista (voluntary training alliance)
• Hudson & Hughes Training
• Base 4 Training
• South West Tourism Skills Network
The project involved 172 employers, 56 coaches and a total of 714 staff were trained. Feedback from employers who participated in the project recorded that staff were better able to do their jobs (97%) and worked more efficiently (92%) after support was given during their training.
Neil Young, from Hudson and Hughes, who produced the SMART Business Coaching materials, said:
“Effective training, that benefits the individual and the business, is at the heart of the Think Smart project. The innovative approach ensures that both the needs of the employees and employers are met, so everyone’s a winner.”
Paula Jones, Chief Executive of Learning South West said:
“In counties like Somerset where there is a high proportion of small-to-medium sized businesses, many of them family run, investing in training is difficult as everyone is so busy running the business itself. Think Smart has clearly demonstrated the benefits of investing in coaching support for employers and in their staff pays off with increased productivity and efficiency.
Our study also suggests that among a significant proportion of participating businesses learning is becoming a habit for the organisation. For example 62% had developed training plans for employees, 59% had confirmed investment in training for different staff, 46% developed a company/organisation training plan and 41% had earmarked funds for further training. These are brilliantly, smart results.”
Press Release - "172 SMART Somerset companies win by training" (14 March 2011)
Press Release - "Learning South West in the news" (5 April 2011)