How learning businesses can succeed and thrive in 2024

Header image for article: How learning businesses can succeed and thrive in 2024

As we close out the year, we’ve been reflecting on the biggest talking points from 2023 and the main trends on the horizon. In the final part of our series, we look at how learning businesses can put themselves in the best position to succeed and thrive in 2024.

When it comes to planning for 2024, there are a number of factors that training providers will need to keep in mind.

The first is the cost of living crisis, which is expected to last into early next year. While the rate of inflation is heading in the right direction, it remains higher than the 2% target which has been set by the government. Funding for the majority of standards hasn’t increased to reflect these pressures, so businesses continue to face a balancing act in 2024.

Questions have also been raised this year around poor learner retention and low apprenticeship achievement rates. The annual achievement rate stands at 53.4% for apprenticeship providers, which falls far below the government’s target of 67% in 2024-2025.

So what can learning businesses do to overcome these challenges, and consistently deliver high-quality learning and positive outcomes? Here are four core actions to take in 2024.

Embed the accountability framework into your business

The apprenticeship accountability framework includes a range of quality indicators to provide a more rounded assessment of providers. Embedding it in your business and building processes around it can help you to be more proactive in tracking performance, identifying potential quality issues and making improvements.

Brad Tombling, Chief Operating Officer at Bud, highlights employee and apprentice feedback as critical areas for improving learner outcomes. As he pointed out in a conversation earlier this year, achievement rates help you to spot patterns and areas of improvement in hindsight, but feedback is captured more frequently and allows you to react faster.

I think including employer and apprentice feedback as key indicators within this framework will really help to sharpen minds. Whether every learner or employer participates in a survey is another story, but I think it’s within providers’ ethos to go out and gather as much data as reasonably possible to make informed decisions.

Brad Tombling, Chief Operating Officer at Bud

Drive operational efficiency with your technology

Being able to thrive in 2024 will require a certain amount of resilience. The UK economy showed zero growth between July and September 2023, and the Bank of England has given a 50-50 chance of a recession by the middle of 2024.

Simon Rouse, former Group Managing Director at PeoplePlus, shared his advice in our whitepaper on how to become recession proof. He explained that driving efficiency in your systems and processes is vital to not only weather cost pressures in the marketplace but give yourself the potential to grow.

“If it’s a really efficient business, it means they can see an opportunity to grow that business without having to do the big investment themselves to turn it around,” he said.

Save time and build insights

Reviewing your data and reporting capabilities is one of the best places to start with improving efficiency. Having accurate, up-to-date reports can help senior management identify new opportunities and make informed decisions to ensure resources are spent in the right places.

The other area to look at is your learning management software. If you’re using manual processes or multiple digital systems that don’t quite work together, be realistic about whether they match your ambitions. If you want to deliver a slick, high-quality learning experience in 2024, trainers can’t do that if they’re bogged down doing repetitive tasks or trying to navigate multiple systems.

Having a single joined-up platform can save time, reduce costs and build insights by providing real-time data at the click of a button. See how Bud’s end-to-end system works by booking a demo.

Provide structured additional learning support

Richard Moore, Further Education and Skills Consultant, described a “noticeable trend” of Ofsted inspectors looking at how effectively learners with additional learning needs are supported.

Claiming Additional Learning Support (ALS) funding is a daunting task for a lot of learning businesses. Many providers we’ve spoken to offer ad-hoc learning support where they can and write off additional costs as lost overheads, because they’re worried about not having the right evidence for a funding claim.

These additional costs can affect your business if you’re already operating on slim margins. More importantly, however, is that improvised support is unlikely to meet Ofsted’s expectations in 2024.

If your efforts aren’t backed by funding, it’s hard to track when and how support is delivered. There’s no accountability when it comes to measuring learner outcomes and making adjustments to ensure support is as effective as possible. This can culminate in learners failing to receive the standard of support they need and ultimately disengaging.

“The inspectors won’t examine your funding claims – that is ESFA territory. But they will talk to relevant learners and training staff about how well supported they feel, and may well ask to see detailed records of the support you are providing them with,” Richard said.

Read more about creating a high-quality educational experience and how claiming ALS raises the standard of support for learners.

Diversify your funding streams

Diversifying your offering to include different funding streams is an effective way to grow learner numbers and strengthen your business.

The key is to develop a repeatable, scalable model that works across multiple streams, so you can access funding without having to overhaul your internal processes or increase your overheads.

Many Bud customers successfully diversified their offering to include Skills Bootcamps in 2023. Bud’s unique workflows are built to drive compliance for each funding stream, making it straightforward to scale your training effectively.

Read more about diversifying your funding streams

Streamline your training in 2024 with Bud

Whether you want to improve your operational efficiency, drive quality and compliance, or make your business more recession proof in 2024, Bud can support you with your goals. Book a demo now to see the platform in action.