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Case study: Acetate Products creates blended learning programme for apprentices

Fibre and plastics manufacturing company Acetate Products has created a blended learning solution around a bespoke e-learning course in order to deliver technical information on its new three-year apprenticeship programme for school leavers.

The approach has proved so effective that the company is now considering using blended learning more widely across the organisation.

Developed by Balance Learning, the e-learning course covers chemistry, physics and maths-related issues such as process engineering, matter, energy, pressure and combining chemicals. Called Process Manufacturing Engineering Knowledge, it comprises text, audio, graphics and photographs.

Trainers from Acetate Products run classroom-based workshops which build on the online learning, and scheduled follow-on activities and assignments which the apprentices undertake in the workplace. Line managers provide additional support through one-to-one coaching.

"People often have a negative view of manufacturing industry, so it can be hard for companies to attract new people," said Halinka Hepworth, HR Advisor at Acetate Products. "We find it difficult to recruit people with the skill set we need, so our emphasis is on 'growing our own'. We decided to introduce a new apprenticeship programme to help us recruit school leavers to become the technicians of tomorrow."

When the training team at Acetate Products were developing the modules for the programme, they were concerned about how they
would cover the technical issues relating to physics, chemistry and maths.

"Our apprentices need a knowledge of these subjects to ensure they have job-specific skills as well as an underlying understanding of technical issues ," said Halinka Hepworth. "However these subjects are quite dry areas to teach. We looked at options such as paper-based materials and internet-based resources but we felt they did not meet our requirements. We wanted a more dynamic way of delivering the underpinning knowledge."

Following a recommendation, Halinka Hepworth contacted Balance Learning. "I really liked their approach," she said. "We were trying to put together a module that involved a huge amount of information, most of it very technical, and they developed a format which put this across in a highly interactive, engaging and accessible way."

Balance Learning also advised on how the company could best combine the different elements of the module together.

"Balance’s approach to blended learning closely mirrors our own philosophy," said Halinka Hepworth. "Working with them enabled us to mix online and traditional training and get the best of both worlds. It gives us a very flexible module, as the participants can work through the online element at their own pace and go over it as many times as they need to."

The first six school leavers have now been appointed and they are currently working through the new apprenticeship programme.
"Balance Learning’s e-learning module has real impact and we believe it will also be of great value to others in the organisation, outside of the apprenticeship programme, who want to increase their knowledge and understanding in these key areas," said Halinka Hepworth. "We’re now thinking how blended learning solutions could fit into our long-term training plans, to give us a more holistic approach to learning across the organisation."

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