IT Skills for the Ambulance Service

Special Case Study

In Ambulance Service 30/09/2015 0

Liam Marshall is the Education and Development Officer for IT at the North East Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust. The Trust employs over 2,500 people and covers a geographical area of 3,230 square miles from Guisborough in the south to the Scottish Border at Berwick upon Tweed. In September 2014, Liam was tasked with implementing the IT Skills Pathway across the organisation. We caught up with Liam one year on to find out how things are progressing.

Why did you start using the Pathway?

"A year ago the Trust was paying external training providers to provide face to face classroom IT skills training at various levels for our staff. The feedback was mixed with around a third of attendees saying the courses were hard and a third saying they were easy. Given this feedback it was apparent that investment wasn’t effective – especially when you factored in the high cost and also the abstraction from the workplace. The courses also didn’t match the way most people wanted to learn and of course there was no way of re-visiting the learning afterwards."

How did you implement the Pathway?

“I met with David Levison from the HSCIC central team to discuss and create an implementation plan. It’s never been our intention to completely remove classroom training but we wanted to have a way of identifying where the classroom was going to be suitable and also have a way of establishing staff’s current skill level before going on external courses.

I went through the learning myself first as I figured it would be the best way to get familiar with what other learners would experience. I then did a small pilot with other staff from our HR department because it enabled me to try out the learning within my directorate in a safe environment. I then started to identify staff that already had IT skills on their PDRs and invited them to attend workshops.”

The Trust was paying external training providers and the feedback was that the investment wasn’t effective.

So what happened next?

At the workshops Liam introduced the Pathway to the learners and explained the various levels and topics available. He promoted the benefits and signposted other learning that is available and also the Knowledge Bank. He then had individual conversations with each learner and established what they needed to do in their job role and help them to pick an appropriate course.

Liam offered people the chance to go straight to elearning if they wished although currently around 90% choose to attend workshops.

Examples of where the IT Skills Pathway has helped has been to improve the skills of Team Leaders. In the first instance one used to ask colleagues to create simple spreadsheets for them, however after attending a workshop and successfully completing the Microsoft Excel Level 1 course they were able to do it themselves. They told us:

"By completing the course it will save me so much time. Rather than waiting for others to help me or just copying other people’s spreadsheets and changing them I now have the confidence to do my own."

In the second instance the Team Leader wanted a general overview to check their current IT literacy and therefore attended a workshop and undertook the Microsoft Windows 7/Office 2010 – Entry Level course. Afterwards they said:

"I attended to get an understanding of how the IT Skills Pathway operates so that I can complete further modules back in the office environment. I got exactly what I required from the course and will put into practice the knowledge that I learnt from this morning's session."

So how is the IT Skills Pathway helping the organisation?

"Well firstly by using the skills diagnostic assessments that are built in, we’re saving money by not paying for anywhere near as much external training. We’re also able to train a lot more people than before which means more staff benefit. The feedback from learners also tells us that they are able to undertake IT tasks much more quickly and effectively which frees up time for other duties – thus increasing productivity. Some of these are relatively simple skills such as using Autofill in Excel but they save lots of time due to their repetitive nature."

In terms of statistics:

  • The organisation had 18 staff registered in September 2013
  • By September 2015 the figure was 334 who had completed 556 courses

“Also, as a 24/7 organisation with a large geographical area to cover, the flexible nature of the Pathway saves staff travelling for training as once they get started they can carry on learning at their local base.” 

So what’s next for Trust?

“We’re going to continue our workshop sessions at our main HQ sites but we want to expand so that we deliver more training sessions nearer to where staff are based. I have a set of training laptops that I can take to more remote sites and one trainer going to visit ten staff is more efficient than the other way round.

Word of mouth recommendations mean that more people are now booking because they’ve heard good things from colleagues that have already been trained. One example is our Emergency Care Clinical Managers that have attended now releasing their staff because they see the value in the training.

We also want to promote the Knowledge Bank more too. Usage is increasing but not as much as I’d like. Staff that do access it find it really useful as a reminder for the things they covered on training but also as “just in time training” for other tasks.”

What do the staff have to say about the learning?

Having attended the IT Skills Workshop and studied Entry Level courses I now feel more confident in the use of PowerPoint presentations and getting to know my way around the computer. Instead of burying my head in the sand which I have done for a number of years these courses have highlighted the fact that “You can’t break or lose important information” as confirmation is always required to do so. If anyone else is worried about going on one or more of these courses I’d say give it a go as you

Dave Bulmer, Driver Training Officer

I found the Microsoft Excel Level 1 elearning training course very helpful. I attended the IT Skills Workshop where the trainer was very patient and explained things very clearly, nothing was a problem. I have been able to transfer these skills into my job role and have been able to develop simple spreadsheets that have helped me to present information more clearly. A really useful course indeed!

Tina Balbach, OD Culture and Engagement Co-ordinator

The IT Skills Workshops have proven to be of great benefit for our multi-skilled workforce who are not desk based and whose day to day activities don’t always include using computers. It is essential that everyone has some basic IT skills and the course has proven to be of great benefit to my team. All staff now have IT skills and have learnt the best ways to help with their day to day activities and increase their productivity. The new skills acquired have also been an extremely worthwhile investment as the team are now better equipped to complete their NVQ’s.

Raymond Davidson, Workshop Team Leader, Fleet Division

I needed to obtain PowerPoint Skills so I attended the monthly IT Skills Workshops for half a day usually once a month. This is protected learning time for me with no interruptions. I have worked my way through the on-line tutorials and learning material and am now taking the tests to finalise the training. I like the way that the training allows you to work at your own pace and not under any pressure. I never feel like I am “stuck” as I can go through the learning material as many times as I li

Andrea Cummings, Personal Assistant

Staff from the Fleet Department receive their certificates of achievement.