At the end of October, the GMAC 'Pathways to Productivity’ project, which is a partnership between Bolton College, The Growth Company, Hopwood Hall College, Oldham College, Salford City College, Total People, The Trafford Colleges Group and Wigan and Leigh College will come to an end after 28 months – and we’re proud to say that the project has achieved some truly amazing things within that time.

The project came into life through the Greater Manchester Colleges Group and the opportunity to promote via City Deal funding, the take up of apprenticeships by study programme learners in Further Education sector. The objective was to determine if a dedicated careers portal would increase the number of young people applying for apprenticeships. And, given the success of the GMAC, it’s safe to say that the answer is yes.

GMAC has been able to increase the CEIAG for learners on study programmes by helping them to make informed decisions about apprenticeships. The dedicated ‘This is Me’ portal is home to a wealth of useful tools and information, including a CV builder, the mock interview experience and exciting video content about the various apprenticeships and career paths available to young people.

Since it was established, ‘This is Me’ has seen over 41,500 logins from 23,000 user accounts, with a whopping 100,000 CEIAG activities completed on the portal. Careers assessments were the most popular tool that learners accessed, with over 13,000 being used to help young people to make the right choice.

The CEIAG has gone a long way to encourage more young people to choose to do an apprenticeship whether that be from a study programme or choosing to do a higher-level apprenticeship through one of the partners.

Altogether, we’ve achieved 630 apprenticeship starts across a range of levels, including several at level 4 and above. This is a fantastic outcome and shows that the project has played a vital part in boosting apprenticeship uptake and skills across Greater Manchester (GM).

So what’s the reason for the project’s success? Collaboration between our partners has been key. Together, the partnership worked collaboratively to share their knowledge and expertise in the delivery of over 100 new apprenticeship standards e.g. the Public Sector Operational Delivery standard for the local authorities in GM. 

This collaborative approach has helped to open apprentices up to a wider range of courses across a broader range of industries – creating endless career opportunities for young people across Greater Manchester, helping to meet the needs of the modern workplace.

The two GMAC conferences have also been highlights of the project.  Both the conferences have been supported and opened by Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester.  We’ve welcomed guest speakers from high-profile organisations such as Greater Manchester Combined Authority, City and Guilds, Siemens, Seddons Construction, the Institute for Apprenticeships and many more. It has been great to see so many industry experts come together to share their thoughts on apprenticeships, good practice, knowledge and ideas of best delivery models and talk about the value that apprentices bring to their organisations.

Speaking of the project’s success, Joan Scott, Director of Adult Learning at Trafford College Group, said: “There have been quite a lot of challenges over the last few years with different reviews and mergers, but throughout all of that the partnership has stayed strong. For the learners, we just kept going. The collaboration is quite unique, and because of it hundreds and hundreds of learners have gone onto apprenticeships and will now have really rewarding careers.”

“We’ve also shared best practice in London because this is such a unique collaboration in Greater Manchester. We were invited to attend a conference in London to share our approach with providers in the capital.”

The legacy of the project will continue through a dedicated forum which will be established to enable collaboration on key themes such as CEIAG, apprenticeship standards, professional development and the ongoing challenges facing the sector.

We’re so proud of what the project has achieved, and we’d like to say a massive thank you to all our partners for making GMAC a huge success.