The FE body that helps raise the profile of further education across Wales has undertaken a major digital restructure over the last 18 months, as part of its strategy to prepare itself for the significant challenges that are facing the sector.
ColegauCymru / CollegesWales has carried out a full review of its website, invested in new cloud-based systems to increase the efficiency and flexibility of its workforce and scaled up its digital marketing activity - all part of an integrated approach to enhancing external communication and driving revenue growth. The organisation has also upgraded to a fibre broadband network at its offices in Tongwynlais.
CollegesWales is a member-led, not-for-profit organization, representing all 13 further education colleges and institutions across the country, promoting the benefits of post-compulsory education and lifelong learning, and acting as a collective voice to government and policy makers. Like other charities, it faces a number of challenges, not least with the UK’s expected withdrawal from the EU in 2019. Operating in European and international markets, it currently benefits from funding streams from the Erasmus+ mobility projects, which provide work experience opportunities for European students in Wales and vice versa; it is not yet clear whether there will be a continuation of this funding.
Staff have flexible working in the cloud
CollegesWales attended a Superfast Business Wales workshop on digital connectivity and moved its staff on to a new cloud-based platform, allowing for more flexible working – especially for those who need to work remotely. The changes have brought significant improvements to data security, negating the need to use memory sticks or transfer data away from the server.
Investment in Office 365 has proven to be beneficial when staff are working on projects with external contractors and need to share information with each other, fostering a more collaborative approach. Employees use SharePoint to access secure, internal communications which has helped the business obtain its Cyber Essentials certificate and bolstered its efforts to ensure that all of its networks are adequately protected against cyber-attacks.
Fforwm Services – the charity’s commercial arm - has already seen a significant increase in its activity as a direct result of the digital strategy, and there are now plans underway to recruit a new employee to oversee the redevelopment of its online, web presence, as well as lead on its ambition to grow its digital marketing activity.
Investment in digital means we can deliver a better service
“Our aim is to become a ‘digital first’ organisation and explore all options to maximise the benefits that come from advances in technology,”
said Julie Osman, director of business administration at CollegesWales. “We are already becoming more proficient in using digital channels to share and disseminate information with customers, stakeholders and the wider community.
“The challenges we are facing now are very different from those of ten or fifteen years ago. Structural changes and the merging of colleges have meant continued reductions in funding and a fall in membership subscriptions, so we need to be at the top of our game in terms of generating our own income moving forward, as well as predicting customer and market trends, to ensure our on-going sustainability in uncertain economic times.
“Our revamped web presence and new digital marketing strategy will play a big role in ensuring that we can continue to represent the needs and aspirations of the sector and don’t get left behind by market developments. The investment we have made – both in time and money – in training staff in digital resourcing, also means we are able to work more effectively and deliver better value for money from the charitable subscriptions that we receive.”
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