Dean Matthews had 2400 apprentices to look after and almost as many spreadsheets.
Exeter College is the best college in the country. We’re not trying to start an argument here, we’re just quoting FE Week, who placed Exeter at the head of their league tables in 2017 for the second year running.
Judged on learner satisfaction, employer satisfaction, 16 to 18 positive progression and adults into employment Exeter leads the field. In 2016, the college was named Centre of the Year at the Lion Awards, the City & Guilds’ most prestigious awards event.
So, Dean Matthews, Exeter’s Workplace Learning Systems Co-ordinator, has a reputation to uphold.
His team tried several customer relations management systems in an attempt to get the best possible experience for learners and employers but these proved to be costly failures.
When we started out we were working with multiple spreadsheets, and everyone seemed to have their own individual way of doing things. It was incredibly complicated
“Posting vacancies to job sites was very time consuming and we tended to rely on the NAS site all the time. That caters almost exclusively to 16 to 25-year olds so we were missing out on everyone else.
“We tried a different CRM system but that wasn’t a good experience. Everything was so rigid and limited and we couldn’t customise anything. If we wanted to change the slightest thing, even an acronym, we’d have to go back to the developer and pay again. In a college environment that’s totally impractical.
“Every college uses its own acronyms and its own terminology and a system that can’t deal with that is just a waste of money”.
When Dean first suggested adopting enrola, he encountered resistance.
“Everyone had been through the experience of adopting a new system which would then prove to be not up to the job. It was all time and money down the drain and nobody was too keen to start the process all over again.
“But the enrola team came to the College and spent time with us; showed us all the possibilities and basically just asked us what we wanted. And they would implement the features we asked for, sometimes almost instantly”.
When asked for examples of features enrola added in response to requests from the Exeter team, Dean has no difficulty in reeling a few off.
“Learner location search. We get a vacancy in Newton Abbot so we search to see if we have any learners in Newton Abbot. It sounds such a simple thing but a year ago we couldn’t do that.
Linking to the Learner Record Service was another one. This automatically pulls through the learner’s GCSE results to their application. When you take account of the features already built into enrola there’s a big saving of time and effort.
It used to take us 30 minutes to post a vacancy to just one website; now we can post to all of them in under half the time”.
The Exeter College and enrola teams aren’t content with just tweaking the system.
They’re making ambitious plans for the future.
“We’re now working on a major project with enrola and Milton Keynes College, creating an integration with the OneFile system”, Dean says.
“At the moment we use another system to sign learners up, and enrola to assess them, so we’re integrating these with OneFile. This would enable us to automatically create Learner Portfolios which at the moment have to be set up by individual assessors in quite a laborious process.
It will be a real gamechanger for my team and for the college.”
Dean knew what he wanted from enrola from the start.
“We needed a system that would allow us to make changes ourselves without going back to the developer.
“We needed to be able to post vacancies quicker. We needed to track applications more effectively. And we needed to never mention CRM systems to anyone in the College ever again. We’ve achieved all that and more.
The thing about enrola is they can listen to one of my streams of consciousness about what I’d like to see happen and turn it into IT reality.