From education to employment

Apprenticeships can ignite innovation

Britain’s apprentices are one of the country’s most valuable resources. Recent forecasts from the Centre for Economics and Business Research have predicted that apprenticeships could add up to £3.4 billion a year to the national economy.

As well as playing a key role in improving the fortunes of the British economy, apprenticeships represent a golden opportunity for young people to get their dream job. With the UK’s financial difficulties likely to be with us for the foreseeable future, it’s never been more important to ensure everyone has access to high-quality training placements.

This year’s National Apprenticeship Week (11th-15th March) is a celebration of the positive impact apprenticeships have on individuals and organisations. Thousands of apprentices are currently showing off all that apprenticeships have to offer, with more than 800 events taking place to celebrate the virtues of ‘earning while you learn’.

Today’s apprenticeships offer a high-quality, knowledge and competency-based route to Higher and Further Education, leading to excellent careers with real progression. No longer only an option for the aspiring plumber or mechanic, pursuing an apprenticeship in the 21st Century is about choosing a skills-loaded education and on-the-job training.

With recent figures showing that the number of university students failing to complete their degrees is rising, this week’s celebrations serve as a timely reminder that young people deserve to know the full diversity of options available to them.

The apprenticeships of the 21st Century provide access to opportunities that other routes may preclude. Take the apprenticeships run by us at the Peter Jones Foundation. Our work helps entrepreneurs learn by doing, to gain the practical skills they need to run a business and ignite their futures.

This has been our central aim since we started. We see our mission as addressing the ambition gap in the UK, with our apprenticeship schemes dedicated to training and motivating young people to realise their potential.

We have developed, with key partners, a brand new Level 5 Higher Apprenticeship in Innovation and Growth, which is designed to nurture ‘intrapreneurial’ qualities – the abilities and skills needed to energise and innovate a company from within.

Our apprentices combine learning in the classroom with learning in a ‘real life’ context, developing their business acumen whilst contributing positively to a business. As the Level 5 Apprenticeship isn’t linked to any specific sector, it’s open to all organisations, whether from the public, private or third sector.

Innovative approaches are needed to pull the British economy out of the doldrums it’s currently in, which is why we’ve written apprenticeship frameworks that nurture and encourage innovation in business.

Whether they have a desire to start their own business or not, the Level 5 Apprenticeship helps produce individuals with the skills and abilities to approach business situations creatively, providing employers with the talent they need to compete and grow.

We’re confident that the current generation of apprentices will be instrumental in transforming Britain’s economy and ensuring sustainable growth. The National Audit Office has found that every £1 spent on apprenticeships already pays back £18 to the economy, but we believe that this is just the start.

Having high-quality apprenticeship schemes will create a truly world-class workforce that allows Britain to compete and thrive on the global stage.

Apprentices of the 21st Century learn while innovating and improving the business strategies of their employers – it’s time that their potential to revive Britain’s economy is both championed and celebrated.

Alice Barnard is chief executive of the Peter Jones Foundation and the Peter Jones Enterprise Academy

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