Training case studies
This page documents training offered by a number of radio stations across the UK. The bulk of the page is given over to a number of case studies of selected radio stations, based on phone interviews conducted in 2013. There are more details of the research behind the information on this page, and a mini survey of community radio training, below. Table 1 below summarises the case studies at a glance.
Table 1: Case studies overview
|Reprezent 107.3FM||Arts Awards, AQA, NCFE||FE & 6th form Colleges||Radio production, Journalism, IT skills, Personal Employability||13-24, 25-65||Councils, Regeneration orgs, Skills Funding Agency|
|Academy FM||NCFE||Affiliated w/ Academy school||Radio, Employability||School students, NEETS||Academy, Skills Funding Agency|
|North Manchester FM||Foundation degree (component)||College||Radio, Journalism||College students||College|
|Point FM||BTEC||Cadet Corps (College)||Radio, IT||Cadets, Jobseekers||Job Centre Plus|
|SoundArt||NCFE, Arts Award||FE College||Radio||Skills Funding Agency|
|Calon FM||Foundation degree (module)||University||Radio||University students||Students via University|
|Somer Valley FM||None currently||School, local authority, JCP||Radio, Employability, Media training||Students, Jobseekers,||School, Council, Business|
Reprezent is a youth-based radio station, based in Peckham in south London.
The initiative started in 2004 with a more general community radio station – Radio Peckham – which was set up to get the community talking more. They found it difficult to get young people involved in Radio Peckham – because, for the young people, “it wasn’t cool, and it wasn’t theirs”. Shane Carey, station manager, reminisces that “it was like dragging them through a bush backwards to try to really get them involved”.
They were approached in 2008 by commercial station Choice FM (who were doing a ‘peace on the streets’ campaign – there had been a lot of recent teenage stabbings, causing a good deal of concern in the region). Reprezent was approached to form a partnership, and asked to run a temporary station or RSL for young people. The young people involved at the time came up with the name ‘Reprezent’ – Reprezent did 6 months training with 100 people – producing a 28 day broadcast. Local kids loved it, and their work very quickly eclipsed that of the existing community radio station. Within a month of starting the initiative, they had 300 young people sign up. When Ofcom announced new licences available for London, they had to make a decision to put in an application for Radio Peckham or Reprezent – and it was a “no-brainer” to choose Reprezent says Shane. 3 years ago (March 2011), Reprezent began broadcasting on FM.
Training at Reprezent
- 95% of Reprezent’s funding comes through training.
- Reprezent receives funding from various bodies – e.g. local authorities, regeneration agencies, housing associations, Children in Need – to deliver specific projects and achieve specific outcomes with specific cohorts of young people.
- Reprezent deliver many courses – “everything to do with radio, we teach.” They run courses for young people on radio production, broadcast journalism, ICT, and personal/employability skills.
- The qualifications they offer range from an AQA award (which is quite basic), to Arts Award (Bronze and Silver – but don’t offer Gold), to an NCFE Level 3 Diploma in Radio Production.
- Reprezent is an accredited centre for these courses.
- Works in partnership with local 6th form schools and FE colleges to deliver the NCFE qualification.
- About 400 young people go through Reprezent’s accredited training every year. Shane Carey estimates that they’ve had about 4000 people come through over the last 12 years
Reprezent also run a number of adult learning courses:
- ESOL – English courses for speakers of other languages
- Personal development – Goal-setting aimed towards employment and social mobility
- ICT – A range of levels from beginner to intermediate to improve computer literacy
- Media production – Taster courses in work-specific media skills
Every learner has a personalised learning development plan, which is put together at the outset of the learner’s engagement with Reprezent. The plan is put together in consultation with a Reprezent trainer, and aims to determine what skills the learner needs to develop to get to where they want to in their life. This plan is then consulted on throughout the learning process, and eventually used as an evaluation tool for assessing the learner’s progress at their end of course review.
Reprezent stress the importance of having good outcome evaluation processes in place (see video), which enable them to make a strong case for funded or partnership work. Some example statistics (from their website):
- In 2011-12, Reprezent’s programmes trained 301 learners aged between 19 and 65, with a 96.2% success rate.
- 71.8% of learners were from ethnic minority groups
- 98.2% of learners said they were satisfied with the quality of the course
- 85.7% of learners said they felt more confident after the course
Reprezent also emphasise that feedback from learners should be embedded into the continual improvement of their training, and be used to inform the professional development of their trainers.
Academy FM is a community radio station which is affiliated to an academy secondary school in Folkestone, Kent. Training is integral to Academy FM. Their main focus is to under-18s or those in full time education – though they do also work with older learners.
Academy FM is based in the academy school building. The station gets a grant from the school towards the work they do – £15k a year as a grant towards core operations – this is out of the school’s “alternative curriculum” budget (which funds things like extra curricular activities, etc).
Academy run radio courses for school students – NCFE level 2 radio production course.
- The station gets separate payment for delivering NCFE training – about £4500 per course per year.
- In the past, they have run 3 courses in one academic year – this year, running one course.
- The course is a timetabled subject for students, who are doing the course over one academic year.
- Delivery time is 5 hours per week – all course delivery done within those 5 hours (unlike other FE or HE courses, there is no ‘self study’ time).
- Teaching materials are written by Academy – accreditation is carried out through the school, an accredited NCFE centre. (The school is an accredited centre, not the station.)
- Students’ work is put into a portfolio, which includes audio and written pieces of coursework – split into different units (create a radio programme) – checked by staff in Academy. This is verified externally but there is an intention in the near future to be able to carry out verification internally (i.e. within the school).
Academy also run an employability course with NEETS:
- This is funded by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation – young NEETS, 16-19 years old – developing speaking and listening skills, and if necessary also core skills.
- It is a 4 – 6 weeks course – for 12 hours per week.
- As part of the programme, students can receive a variety of qualifications including Employability Skills, Core Skills (English, Maths), and a NCFE Radio Production Level 1, depending on their circumstances, abilities, and wishes.
- Most learners go onto further study or into a job – about 70% move to positive destinations – the other 30% just drop off the radar and is hard to determine whether or not they have moved to a positive destination.
- Academy have good relationships with local employers – with whom the course participants can engage. Employers like working with Academy FM “because we’re a radio station” – and hence a desirable option.
Like all community radio stations, Academy try to find a balance between broadcasting quality output and providing an accessible outlet for the community. Output can sound “pretty random” because of the variety of presenters – the challenge is to keep some quality control. They want to sound “fairly professional” – in order to be taken seriously by employers – finding the right balance is key.
Even taking into account the grant from school and income from school-based training, the majority of Academy FM’s funding from a variety of sources – including grants, community fundraising, etc.
Training adult volunteers is funded from core funds – carried out by one of the full-time members of staff. Other training is funded by project grants, e.g. one from the Brook Trust to work with local young people, largely underachieving 12-13 year olds, who present simple radio shows, do basic journalism exercises, etc.
In the past, Academy have run other funded projects. For example, a one-year project through the Community Learning Innovation Fund to train up community reporters – where local people were trained on how to interview, report & present.
Academy have also received 3 years funding from Welcome Trust to do a science education project where young people interview scientists & medics for broadcast on radio.
Academy is helped by virtue of its position within the school – because of the school’s “fundamentally educational remit” – Academy possibly get some of their funding more easily than some other CR stations. Also, because the station is based in the school building, it makes courses that bit easier to deliver.
NCFE qualifications are no longer directly equivalent to any GCSEs – Dave Sharp points out that if other stations were planning on offering such teaching, they need to understand that schools may be less interested in offering these courses than in the past, as it doesn’t add much to their statistics. It may be difficult for CR stations to realistically offer this to schools without having a close affiliation, and stations need to understand that schools may wish to only offer these courses to their lowest-achieving students who may get little out of it. At Academy FM they’ve successfully got some very ‘difficult’ students (mainly boys) through NCFE Radio Production courses, and although the students got some benefit in transferable skills, the Academy FM staff who taught the students came to the conclusion that many students would have got more out of practical physical courses such as Trowel Skills, Plastering etc along with Core Skills and Employability courses. If radio stations want to offer Radio Production courses for young people they have to consider if they’re doing it to help the young people in the best way possible, or simply to get funding to keep a Community Radio station going?
Academy highlighted what are, for them, significant differences between younger and older learners. Older learners are only going to work according to their own interests; however the mindset is different with kids, whose activity is organised and fit into a timetable. For the young people, coming to a radio station is “an island in the chaos of the school”. By contrast, people who have already left school “don’t need an island – they can go anywhere they want”.
In Academy’s experience, teaching communication skills & team working skills & employability skills that are transferable works far better with kids than with 16+.
Ideally, Academy would like to train more volunteers to be more capable of serious journalism – very few volunteers are sufficiently interested or capable – loads of people ‘wanna-be DJs’, but very few are interested in journalism. They would like to encourage more people develop interview skills & ability to produce news content. Academy recognise that journalism is hard work – ideally, they (or someone) would pay people to undertake this sort of training.
Academy point out that many CR stations are struggling to find money and, because there is often money available for such a purpose, they are applying for grants to train difficult groups of people. However, they voiced concerns over whether each station’s staff and volunteers have the skills and time to deliver the projects well? Identified this as a potential “recipe for disaster” – not just for individual stations but for the reputation of the sector – in this kind of work is often very niche and specialised. As Dave Sharp says, “working with difficult people is very skilled – the radio part is the easy part”. Furthermore, any negative impact on the reputation of the station or the sector as a result of poor-quality training would obviously have a consequent impact on a station’s ability to apply for funding in the future.
North Manchester FM is a community radio station in North Manchester, serving its local communities. It was granted its community radio licence by Ofcom in 2008, starting broadcasting in 2009, after having done a number of RSL broadcasts over the preceding years with the Toolkit’s parent charity Radio Regen. North Manchester FM has a full-time station manager and has recently taken on a business development officer , paid for by the Community Radio Fund. In addition to the staff, there are 50-60 active volunteers involved in their work (though there are many more involved less actively).
North Manchester FM was set up as an initiative of Manchester College – the principal of Manchester College (then Peter Tavener) employed Radio Regen to set up a community radio station in North Manchester. Manchester College has put substantial funds towards initial set-up costs (Station Manager Lou Armer estimates £50-60k), and continues to work in partnership with North Manchester FM.
Manchester College provides the main source of funding for NMFM, though the station is independent of the college; NMFM is a Community Interest Company (CIC), and currently a tenant of the College. The station studio is in a campus building of Manchester College (courses run from this campus are mainly around IT and Tech). Plans are however being considered to re-locate the station to a nearby high school.
North Manchester FM deliver training on two of the college’s courses: Public Service Foundation Degree, and Radio Foundation Degree. NMFM take 20% of the cost of the course. The station then offers in-kind support in return (use of studio, etc). The link to radio courses is self explanatory but the lead tutor for the Public Services course feels that the radio element of his course is valuable for core skills such as communication and team working – and makes his students more employable.
NMFM’s station manager is contracted as a tutor of Manchester College. The line manager in Manchester College is on the board of NMFM.
Each learning programme has a tutor in College; this is the person responsible for the course. When developing training programme, NMFM are given a brief by the College/tutor, and then coordinate with the tutor (and sometimes curriculum development team) about fulfilling College’s criteria. NMFM develop lesson plans and resources, and deliver the training to College students.
Each programme has its own learning outcomes and expectations – content of NMFM’s training will depend on these. Sometimes are given handbooks from College to develop materials/resources
NMFM don’t take their relationship with the College for granted – they are keen to show the College what they’re getting for their money. Manchester College don’t micromanage the work done by the station; NMFM are mainly “left to get on with it”. However, the partnership requires North Manchester FM to be honest and realistic – “we have to ensure we can deliver what we say we can deliver.”
Students from the College come to NMFM for the hands-on experience. This practical, hands-on resource is NMFM’s USP. Station Manager, Lou Armer, says: “Why would people do a Level 2 when they could come into a real station to get real world experience?” NMFM’s strategy is to find things they can offer the College which the College couldn’t do themselves
Lou feels it’s worth setting up this partnership – the partnership needs to be (and is) of mutual benefit – e.g. NMFM gets funding from College, and the relationship with NMFM increases the College’s community footprint. Also, partnership allows NMFM to keep up with College initiatives and programmes – e.g. offender learning, apprenticeships.
North Manchester FM values the partnership – but also state that they are “fiercely independent” (and want to maintain that independence). NMFM are currently looking to lessen their dependence on the College – not to weaken partnership, but to seek ways of protecting themselves in case anything were to happen with their partnership contract. As they say, “we’d have died if it wasn’t for the College.” It is currently a period of uncertainty for the College and its funding streams – so NMFM are strengthening their other revenue streams (e.g. advertising).
In general, Lou emphasised the potential to tie-in radio/media training into any course.
More widely, on the training landscape and community radio’s part in it, Lou Armer said:
“What we do in community radio is to help people to move on. We want to give people a genuine chance to make choices about their life, before someone else makes that decision for them. Community radio is, now, one of the few learning opportunities that’s free – free courses are rapidly disappearing, or have already gone. This has serious implications for the learner, and their opportunities in life.”
Point FM is based in Rhyl in North Wales, an area of very high deprivation.
Many of the people coming in (trainees) are over 40 – the oldest volunteer there is 82. Occasionally, they find that if people have done some training/experience elsewhere, they may need to be un-trained and re-trained to work with the station! Not everyone stays for a great length of time – but for the people who are going to stay, they need to learn about production aspects of radio. Point also offer support with numeracy and literacy, if needed – this need is identified proactively, finding out if people need help.
All training offered by Point FM is person-centred and tailored to the individual. It is directed at people volunteering at the station, though it is also offered to people referred from Job Centre Plus (JCP).
Training is in-house – everyone pitches in and helps out. People are mentored throughout – training is vocational and hands-on. All presenters at the station deliver training, after having themselves been trained by one of the team.
Sometimes, JCP referrals don’t particularly want to be there – they don’t want to lose their benefits, and are there “just to show willing”. In such cases, if there is something the individual can do (e.g., helping with building work, etc), they are encouraged to use whatever skills they have. Point adopt an approach of finding things for people to do – not just radio training, per se. Point emphasise they have a social responsibility – and that they need to work with the individual, since “people are slipping through the nets.” The approach has its challenges: “it is at a cost to us, but mostly in terms of time.”
Confidence is very low with a lot of the people who come – “this just needs bringing out”. This fits with the personally tailored approach to training: “There’s some good in everybody – there’s always something we can find to work with.”
There are generally 4-6 people in training at a time, though this fluctuates from time to time. Point also run a work experience programme from local schools during summer months, for a minimum of 4 pupils at a time. Work experience placements last 2 weeks – students have something completed at the end – they decide what they work on. There is a 6 week programme for JCP & A4E – 4 learners at a time – there is limited capacity for this in terms of space/resources.
Point also co-deliver a BTEC IT qualification in partnership with a local cadet corps. They have built a studio in a local cadet hall – which all cadets have access to. Cadet trainer delivers the course. However, this course is not limited to cadets – Point suggest to people that they can do the course, if the fit and need is right. About 14 people a year sit the BTEC.
Point would like to get funding for training – but this would require setting up as learning provider, which is beyond their current capacity. They don’t charge a lot for training – this is not a fixed amount, but depends on the resources of the individual or organisation receiving training.
Station manager, Harold Martin, gives example of a young learner who came into the station, very motivated in radio. He had been put onto ‘Jobs Growth Wales’ (generally a negative indicator) and was obliged to sign onto a work scheme with A4E. Harold harangued people in JCP and A4E schemes to allow Dan to work with Point FM, making the case that they were a valid employer (and not part of the locked-in A4E pathway). The case was successfully made – a process which took 9 months; Harold emphasises that this shows one of the values of community radio, in that participants wouldn’t be nurtured or valued the same way in another organisation.
One student ended up doing a post-graduate diploma in broadcast journalism in Liverpool Hope University – spending time with Point, commercial station HeartFM , and BBC. This relationship came about through Liverpool Hope approaching Point to see whether Point could recruit students – Point identified one learner (age 48), and pointed him towards the course. Point can still encourage people to take up this pathway (with Liverpool Hope).
Another station volunteer, Craig – has been working with Harlech University, following a heart to heart talk with Point station manager on the course he had been doing, which he didn’t value at time. He now presents a very popular afternoon show – the most popular on the North Wales coast.
SoundArt – in Totnes , Devon – take a person-centred approach to training their station volunteers – the model is ‘learning by doing’, or experiential learning. Presenters learn while on-air: SoundArt’s approach is to let people have a show slot, and have a more experienced volunteer hover and mentor during the initial familiarisation stage. They want to create a learning culture within the station, where everyone helps each other. Presenters are encouraged to listen back to what they’ve said and done on air – in order to reflect on, and learn from, their experience. Also, to listen to other people’s shows – to be challenged and inspired by others.
The desire is to enable people to find their voice. They don’t want to teach people ‘how to present’; they don’t like to tell people what they’ve done ‘wrong’; they want to trust people’s creativity. “People are really good at being themselves” – and so should be encouraged to express their individuality in their shows. “The worst thing would be for Community Radio to become a pale imitation of commercial radio.”
SoundArt prefer to talk about learning as opposed to training. They find it depressing that metrics are needed in order to make the case for funding, and are frustrated with the competitive nature of funding, finding it exhausting, but a necessary evil. SoundArt don’t want to see fellow learners as statistics – they want to create open discussion spaces for learners. But, they acknowledge that have to follow funding, which does sometimes constrain their options for delivering projects.
Training offered and funding models
- Working in partnership with Plymouth Art College. Worked with Plymouth College on accreditation processes.
- Ran course through NCFE funding. Plymouth partnership brought in £315 for each person trained.
- SoundArt say the course inscribes quite ‘straight’ ideas of how radio works – which is fine, according to SoundArt, but they would like to re-write the NCFE course.
- First round of course applications had very strict criteria – people who already had qualifications couldn’t access the course. Twice as many people came on registration night as could actually do course – but it was still quite a diverse group
- People did their Award through their radio shows – lots of interviewing artists, etc.
- Aimed at 11-25 year olds, who can take a number of levels (bronze, silver, gold, explorer – silver is about half a GCSE). Their learners did bronze and silver awards.
- Found it tricky in terms of funding – that just because of running the course you don’t get paid. Found it difficult to make this work financially.
- Thought that the course works really well for radio.
- Course was offered to home educated groups of teenagers – a group to which such a structure is suited.
- SoundArt is registered as an Arts Award training centre. SoundArt say this course is possibly the easiest one for community organisations to get up and running – just need to do advisor training, register yourself and your centre.
Camglen Radio, in South Lanarkshire, has recently been granted a community radio FM licence, having run a series of temporary stations [RSLs] since 2007. It is part of a parent organisation – Healthy n Happy Community Development Trust – which has received funding through a variety of channels, including Big Lottery. At time of writing – March 2015 – it has just had word of its full time licence.
Given its recent granting of an FM licence, CamGlen are in the process of undertaking recruitment and training – giving 6 weeks training for all volunteers. There are currently 55-60 volunteers from the local community – which they aim to increase to 100 within the first year.
Coming from its RSL background, CamGlen’s ethos is focused on providing local people with opportunities for engagement – on the spectrum of ‘quality output’ to ‘engaging outlet’, Camglen are heavily skewed toward the latter. Camglen’s parent organisation, Healthy n Happy, is steered by a committee of local people – based on the principle of empowering local people to take control.
CamGlen is not an accredited training centre. However, have offered a formal accredited course to station presenters/volunteers – SCQF Level 6.
They also run 6 hour courses for 21 schools. The first time they delivered this was not funded, but from the second roll out, it has been funded by local education authority (South Lanarkshire) through its ‘determined to succeed’ budget. This has brought in roughly £5k every 6 months.
Camglen engages with a wide range of local partners – and is well known by local services.
Radio is a major draw – and, since CamGlen aims to be of greatest benefit to its local community, they never turn anyone away.
“We operate as a satellite of a local college – we design courses, deliver them to local people and target the most disengaged people in our community. Most administrative work is completed by the local college and they ultimately verify the coursework and put people forward for accredited awards.”
CamGlen have always offered informal training but were always keen to deliver accredited training. They explored the process of becoming accredited centre – but felt it would be an “administrative nightmare”.
They floated the idea to local colleges of whether Camglen could be a satellite of the college and that the college would rubberstamp the training. They felt like they were “banging head off brick wall” with several colleges who didn’t understand what they were asking, until one college who really “got it” got involved.
Went through formal process of fulfilling college’s criteria. Looking at the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) they found a course that fit well, but which the college then didn’t deliver.
They then got funding through a large social landlord. Funded a 2 year project worker post – which gave money towards admin costs and then set up a partnership with the college. Target group for the course was long term unemployed people.
After 18 months, they got the course set up. Ran five 10-week courses. Course delivery was 1 day a week. 40 people undertook course; 32 got through with qualification.
Designed the course with a timeframe that was appropriate to the learners, many of whom come from complex backgrounds, or have mental health issues, or who had previously not thrived in learning environments. The environment was deliberately very informal – which eased the learners into it. Were also flexible with learners – in that it was OK to miss a session. At the end of the course, there were many hours of one to one support with learners who had missed sessions, or who needed that bit extra.
70% of learners who completed the course went onto become Camglen volunteers, and are still volunteering with station.
Funding has since stopped for this training – however, they have all materials and processes in place (e.g. monitoring & evaluation), and so are in strong position to offer this course/training in the future, which they intend to do.
Funding: students were asked to get an Individual Learning Account (ILA) – if the ILA application is successful, some of that money is allocated to college. Developing the training programme has forged close links with the college – person in college is a local resident – now chairman of Camglen station committee (and has a background in commercial radio)
The station also delivers a formal unaccredited course i.e. using lesson plans but no qualification at the end. This is to a ‘Discovery Group’ – a group of older people aged 60+. CamGlen delivered three 10 week courses in radio broadcasting on behalf of, and funded by, South Lanarkshire Council.
CamGlen also work with all local (21) schools delivering structured programmes of radio broadcasting training. In addition to this they have in the past delivered structured training in pupil referral units.
Project to train up local cubs and scouts – offering young people radio training. Run on Saturday mornings over 4 weeks for 2 hours.
Youth groups go through an 8-9 week radio training course – 1 day a week for 1.5 hours
Project with nursery kids – organised in partnership with a local community nursery – working with 2-3 year olds – “2 year olds turning up crossfaders and playing Lady Gaga”. Trained staff and kids over a couple of broadcasts. Nursery covered the costs of training. Obviously, care had to be taken around who in the station could deliver this training (safeguarding) – was delivered by one member of staff (the station manager).
Schools consultancy: arising from a conversation with a headteacher, CamGlen were invited to meet with school staff to advise them on what equipment they could buy, and how to include radio in their work, etc. Then engaged in training staff and students in radio production skills – grouping staff and students together in the training. Since starting in 2009, 9-10 schools have been involved overall.
One high school in South Lanarkshire was very keen to get involved and took it one step further. After building their studio, school was keen to offer radio qualification amongst their courses. Decided to offer within National Progression Awards – offered to 4th year pupils. Camglen helped them develop the coursework, get set up, and to have the capacity to offer this course. In this case, the headteacher was so motivated, and was the one that pushed it through. Tam says the success of school-based work hinges on there being a keen member of staff at the school.
Camglen don’t go out and sell what they do – relationships almost always come about through word of mouth – on the back of their good reputation. Always offer a bespoke consultancy/training package – which is part of their USP (bespoke and ad hoc). “We don’t always charge people for delivering training provided there is a benefit to local people.”
CamGlen say community radio is a really attractive vehicle – providing a strong motivation for people to get involved, who want to be part of a radio station, and who learn without knowing they are learning (“stealth learning”).
CalonFM serves the community of Wrexham, and has 2 members of staff.
Calon FM is affiliated with Glyndwr University, and is located in the university buildings.
Mike Wright is the station manager of Calon FM, and is also a lecturer in the university. CalonFM is independent of the university – and is funded independently. The university gives CalonFM a stipend – use of space, infrastructure – and partial funding for the staff who teach in the University as well.
CalonFM deliver a course module for the University – a Level 4 Foundation degree module, worth 20 credits. This generates fees (paid by individual students). Currently, CalonFM delivers a free course called ‘Introduction to radio’, which is delivered over 8 weeks.
This module was written by Calon – and is delivered by a member of their staff.
Students are on a variety of courses – e.g. media studies, journalism, theatre, medical – about 180 people per year- come through the training programme – and some but not all get to broadcast on air, following Calon’s quality control processes. CalonFM used to run a degree course in radio–– which they no longer run, but are considering reintroducing in association with the University
Calon do plenty of training for individuals, groups, and organisations other than the university Calon works with. Through ECTARC, a European placement programme, interns are placed throughout the year.
Examples of training they have delivered include to medical students at Cardiff University – training medical professionals about how to communicate health and medical issues to the public. This is part of a medical degree to take a module outside of the core study.
All Calon’s training has been delivered through grant funding. Calon have so far never charged for courses, so do not generate revenue through training. Some funders of Calon’s training include Big Lottery, People’s Trust, Post Office, AVOW (Association of Voluntary Organisation in Wrexham). Calon FM feel constrained by staff time, and by funding for staff time. Like all community radio stations they find it a struggle to keep funding coming in for continuity of business.
In terms of how to pitch training, Calon advise that stations “need to offer structured courses based on people’s starting aspirations and established abilities. There is a need to develop people, not shock them with training, so the delivery needs to be planned to suit the clients.”
Somer Valley FM is based in north east Somerset. It has been running for 5 years, and engages 200 volunteers.
Training is at the heart of what Somer Valley do. They aim to provide a happy & safe environment for young & vulnerable people. They also provide a structured classroom environment where appropriate to the activity.
Somer Valley has good links with several local schools and colleges. They run after-school training courses with Year 9, 10 and 11. The station has a Service Level Agreement with two local schools. The after-school courses are not directly funded by the school, per se, as the SLA does not explicitly oblige Somer Valley to offer this specific course, but is aimed at providing ‘work place opportunities’.
They get £10k per year from Somervale School – plus rent, as the school owns the building where Somer Valley is located. This is adjacent to the school, but Somer Valley is totally independent of the school. Station Manager Dom Chambers estimates that, taking into account the in-kind support, this relationship with the school is worth £17k a year.
The school course is a 9 week course covering all areas of radio production, as a foundation course in radio production, aimed at volunteering with the station, or as a stepping stone towards a career in media. It is an in-house designed course, run with 3 participants at a time, so the course doesn’t lose its potency. The course leads up to the students making a pilot for a radio programme.
As well as with the school, Somer Valley work with the local authority’s youth service on delivering this course. Students completing the course get a ‘Skill Me Up’ certificate (a local authority initiative) – presented by the chairman at a ceremony. This certificate recognises skills gained through volunteering. Course is not otherwise formally accredited – although 2 of the participants to date have been awarded an ASDAN (alternative curriculum) qualification on the back of their work.
Somer Valley used to run an NCFE course in partnership with local school, but no longer run this. The school was the accredited NCFE centre – and Dom says that “the advantage of associating with the school is that they have the educational knowhow”.
GCSE media studies – for the last 2-3 years, Dom has supported GCSE Media Studies students in a module on ‘pitching for a radio show’. To do this, Dom runs a preliminary session in January, where he gives advice to students on how to make a radio show. He then goes back to the students in May, where the students deliver their radio show pitch. This pitch is filmed, and used as part of their GCSE assessed coursework.
Dom describes the relationship between the station and the school as an “immensely positive story”, having given hundreds of students the opportunity to learn through community radio.
Somer Valley have a cooperation agreement with the local council that recognises Somer Valley as a service provider of education & employability platforms. Somer Valley was originally the beneficiary of a local authority grant (to renovate the school building where they are located); when this funding was over, they approached the authority to propose they wouldn’t be reliant on public funding. Now Somer Valley are commissioned by the local authority to meet authority objectives. Somer Valley deliver outcomes for the authority – which are monitored through regular meetings with local authority officer.
This commissioning relationship has been in place for over 18 months – worth £40k to the station (£30k project, £10k capital). Due to success of the programme, Somer Valley are now commissioned to run programmes outside their FM broadcast area – e.g. in South Bath.
The model for the training is to identify a community hub – a group of people – and to identify local interest in radio / community radio. Somer Valley run the sessions using mobile equipment they have secured through this funding. The programme encourages people and groups to be progressively independent of Somer Valley – the future model is to encourage groups to fundraise to secure their own equipment and potentially set up a new community radio station.
Somer Valley run a programme called Pathways to Employment (P2E), which uses radio training as a means to employment, through the development of transferable skills that make participants more employable on all platforms. http://www.somervalleyfm.co.uk/pathway-to-employment/
Learners on P2E are registered with the local Job Centre Plus. Somer Valley station manager sets the criteria of who participates based on who is “most likely to benefit”. Learners should be motivated, or potentially motivated – Somer Valley don’t want to take on those with no interest in getting a job – “there are things we could do to reach hard to reach people, but that’s a different initiative”. The intention is to work with people interested in communication – or people who can’t do well in school but have a huge amount to offer in practical skills.
8 week course for jobseekers
The course lasts a full 8 weeks 5 days a week, 9 – 5. Learners are financially supported including travel allowance – if they don’t find a job, this is factored in their signing on in that two week period. Not all participants spend the full 8 weeks with Somer Valley, as they often get a job during that time.
Training initially involves collating a local news bulletin – e.g. sourcing a script from local newspaper and turning printed word into audio. Learners are not forced to go on air but most people want to. Thrust of programming leads to a midday magazine show aimed at job seekers – involving interviews & discussions, news, event guides, and features. The work also involves: coordinate with other learners, putting together a production template, learning how to present.
Works on a model of mentorship. 2 – 3 weeks for participants to get on their feet – the trainees become mentors – progressing from learner to mentor
Somer Valley also run an apprenticeship scheme – they hire a paid apprentice who mentors P2E participants.
Related to this, Somer Valley ran a fundraising drive around apprenticeship – which raised £12k. This was advertised to all and sundry – moneys were donated from local trusts, organisations, businesses. The pitch for this drive was: apprenticeship is not just about one person – it’s about Somer Valley’s capacity to support people into employment
The station also runs an employability workshop – matching local media experts with workshop participants.
Some outcomes from P2E since its launch in January 2013:
- 53 candidates on training programmes and workshops
- 40 on 8 week training programme from Job Centre Plus
- Over 50% of candidates from Job Centre Plus find work within 6 weeks of their placement. All find work within 2 months
- 13% of participants have special needs
- 6% Working with B&NES Skills & Employment to tackle worklessness
Dom says the potency of P2E is that it’s done through community radio. “How boring is it to go into a classroom and learn about employability? Much better to be creating radio, doing interviews, talking to people – displaying all those skills you’ll need in the workplace.”
Somer Valley offer professional media training course – which are very different from other courses. These are offered to paying clients, like large businesses, local authorities (e.g. Baines Council public health team), and other organisations.
This media training is not widely advertised, but is done through word-of-mouth. It is less important to Somer Valley as it used to be – it doesn’t bring in a huge amount of revenue – though it has significant value in building relationships with businesses and other organisations, and raising the profile of the station. It can also be used as a means of getting sponsorship – e.g. train the company’s chief executive to get on the radio in exchange for funding. Businesses who pay for this kind of service are paying for a professional media setting – Somer Valley’s office looks “not a million miles from a BBC studio” – so this professional setting is a key part of their offer to businesses.
Another key point is to have professional clout in terms of training – in order to convince a business that your training is of a high standard, delivered by trainers with relevant expertise. Dom usually delivers this work in partnership with a Channel 4 presenter – and has also developed his own private media training company, whose track record and client relationship is used to bring in work and revenue for Somer Valley.
One example of a media training course is ‘How to deal with hostile interview techniques’ – a 4-5 day course, charged at £500 per day.
Somer Valley have 3 on-air studios – and need 2 studios to do training – so this constrains their capacity to do more training on premises. Somer Valley are trying to become a charity – which will mean they can access enabling foundations funds – hoping that will become a fixed revenue.
As part of this project, Radio Regen conducted a survey to picture the state of training in the community radio sector. In particular, we wanted to determine:
- what training community radio stations were already doing,
- what training they would like to be doing,
- what they would need in order to deliver the kinds of training that they would like to.
The survey was carried out in two parts. A phone survey was conducted during August – October, 2013 – through phone interviews with 9 community radio stations, each of which lasted roughly between 30 mins – 1 hour. One additional face-to-face interview was conducted, following the same structure as the phone interviews, and a further video interview was also done. Following the phone interviews, an open invitation was sent out (via Twitter and the CMA-L mailing list) to fill in an online questionnaire (see), which elicited 36 responses.
This report summarises the findings of this survey. It also identifies key aspects of this work – in looking at training for employability, how training is (or can be) delivered through partnerships, what revenue is (or can be) generated through training, and what business models are (or could be) employed around training.
Overview of training in community radio
There is a wide variety of training ongoing within community radio stations. All stations we spoke to deliver some sort of training to their volunteers.
The vast majority of the training run by community radio stations is ad-hoc, brought together and delivered as and when needed. This tends to be personalised, targeted at the individual and their needs (e.g. Point FM, SoundArt). Some stations have one (or more) dedicated person to deliver training – often, in such cases, splitting up the training according to the skills of the trainers (e.g. Academy FM) – other stations take a more ‘peer community’ approach, where volunteers who have been trained in radio production themselves pass on their knowledge to newer volunteers (e.g. Point FM).
Some stations provide more structured training to their volunteers. This can be a bespoke course, developed ‘in-house’ by the station, perhaps using lesson plans, and at the end of which the volunteers receive a certificate from the station. Alternatively, it can be a nationally recognised accredited qualification, where the accreditation is taken care of either by the station or by a partner organisation (see partnership page).
Of the 36 online questionnaire responses, 28 (78%) of the stations were offering ad-hoc training, 13 (36%) offered formal unaccredited courses, 8 (22%) offered formal in-house courses with certificates, and 5 (14%) offered formal accredited courses.
In addition to radio-oriented courses, there are also a range of life skills courses, including those that help to develop employability skills – see more info in our report on radio training and employability.
Of the 23 online survey respondents who delivered training to external groups (i.e. not internal volunteers) the three most common groups were: community groups (70%), secondary schools (61%), and youth groups (52%), followed by primary schools (43%), and FE colleges and universities (both 39%).
Some stations have more capacity than others to deliver training. Clearly, the most important factor in this respect is funding: stations who aren’t offering all they would like to are primarily held back by simply not having the resources to do so.
Many community radio stations face substantial challenges in offering training and, unsurprisingly, these often stem from challenges in funding. As Two Lochs Radio in Wester Ross, Scotland, said, “we have enough difficulty finding enough time and people to cover our core operation”.
There is also the capacity of the station to deliver training within the resources it has at its disposal. As Phonic FM said: “We’d like to undertake more formal training, but with 120+ presenters over a month, pressure on studio space is at a premium.”
Challenges can also come down to depending on particular people to deliver training – one station said that a former presenter who delivered their trained had passed away, meaning they can no longer offer training.
However, community radio stations are finding innovative ways of meeting these challenges. East London Radio has developed a solution to the lack of funding and staff: “We are developing online courses to save on staff time.”
In terms of what would help stations develop their training offer, the two most common answers were ‘More staff time’ (18, 94.74%) and ‘Information about how training courses can be funded’ (16, 84.21%).
As for the obstacles standing in the way of CR stations wanting to expand their training offer, the answers most given were: ‘Don’t have any staff/spare staff time’ (6, 66.67%) and ‘Don’t have any staff with suitable qualifications’ (8, 88.89%)
Despite these challenges, community radio stations were positive about the benefits of community radio training:
Soundwork: “Community media needs to set out its unique vision through its training influence – it has to be a different, people-focussed approach to mainstream [training].”
Wycombe Community Radio: “It is a great way to raise funds and provides so much more than just ‘radio presenter’ training – builds confidence, interview skills, communication skills, teamworking etc. All valuable stuff!”
As a selling point, community radio stations offer learners a rich, diverse and engaging environment in which to learn. As SoundArt said, the value of community radio is that you get people very different from each other in the same room – where ‘who you work with’ is the most important thing. “Community Radio is about the people.”
Community radio is also, in a variety of ways, an accessible learning space, in a complex and changing educational landscape. As North Manchester FM’s station manager said: “What we do in community radio is to help people to move on. We want to give people a genuine chance to make choices about their life, before someone else makes that decision for them. Community radio is, now, one of the few learning opportunities that’s free – free courses are rapidly disappearing, or have already gone. This has serious implications for the learner, and their opportunities in life.”
To summarise, Community radio stations are innovative and person-centred when it comes to training. However, there remains much potential for stations to deliver training in a wider capacity than they are already doing. In particular, there appear to be untapped opportunities in developing partnerships (e.g. with local training providers, such as colleges) through whom to expand the range of people that CR stations train. CR stations offer an accessible, person-friendly and motivating space for people to learn – which is one of the unique selling points (USPs) of community radio.