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St John Ambulance – virtual BTEC success

Recently we caught up with Richard Salter, St John Ambulance’s National DofE and CVQO adviser, to see how his cadets had been getting on with their CVQO BTEC Level 2 qualifications during lockdown.
In his days as a cadet, Richard gained the BTEC Level 2 in Public Services and recently graduated as an adult volunteer with a City & Guilds award.

“St John Ambulance had dabbled with CVQO for a number of years, but never really gave it the attention that it deserved. We saw the amazing opportunities it provided the young people though, as did our cadets, and they started asking us to make it more of a priority, so we did.

“We ran our first pilot in January this year, offering the BTEC Level 2 over an intense residential weekend in London with 25 cadets from across England. We had over 100 applications to attend this pilot and the feedback from the cadets was amazing so we knew this was something we had to take forward.

“Our young people tell us they really value this extra qualification, something that is easy to put on a CV or UCAS application, and is easily understood by all, more so than perhaps our internal programmes such as the Grand Prior’s Award.

“For some of our cadets this would be one of the only qualifications they achieved, for other cadets this would sit alongside a long list of top GCSEs, but whoever the young person was, and whatever their background or motivation was for taking part, everyone took away something from the qualification. Many of our cadets would like to go on to careers as healthcare professionals such as paramedics and doctors, and this kind of qualification will really help.

“Our plans for the roll out this academic year, like all of us, had to be adapted to a fully virtual model, of online enrolment sessions, online training, and attracting people to sign up and advertise this opportunity all virtually. Despite these challenges we have had 180 cadets register interest so far and 131 already enrolled.

“It is a real shame our cadets are not able to get together face to face, especially as lots of the positive feedback from the pilot was around meeting other cadets and the practical elements of the course. There have however been many advantages.

“As we are still new to CVQO we only have a small team of SJA VQ Officers, they are able to support and use the time to support many more leaners virtually than they would have been able to do on the ground. This has allowed us to open up the opportunity to all cadets across England at once. We are also able to offer a lot more flexibility in dates of sessions, meaning they are far better able to fit their BTEC around their already busy lives.

“I have sat in some of the virtual enrolment and workbook 1 sessions, and they have been very engaging, fun and informative and our cadets have taken really well to these. The CVQO staff have been great, and as most are volunteers in the cadet forces, they really understand and get what our young people need and how to get the best out of them.

“In future years when we can meet face to face again, I believe based on the learnings from this year, we will be able to put together a great blended approach of virtual and face to face training, to meet the needs of our young people.

“I am really looking forward to following the journey of our cadets through the BTEC programme virtually and see how they find it and what opportunities this opens up for them. So far things are looking very positive!”