I doubt that there will be anyone working in education and skills who would not agree that for a strong and growing economy we must have a high level of skills to meet employer demand. The National Apprenticeship Service (NAS) is not only committed to increasing the number and range of Apprenticeships on offer, but to ensuring the quality of Apprenticeships, which is so key to this growth, is a top priority.
The recent announcement made by the Government of a £25 million fund will support the growth and quality of Apprenticeships by providing up to 10,000 Advanced and Higher Apprenticeships and will significantly help us in driving this forward. The fund will support the creation of sustainable Apprenticeship programmes that are based on the needs of employers and which are accessible to employers of all shapes and sizes.
We want to refocus the Apprenticeship programme so that Advanced level becomes the level to which learners and employers should aspire to, and we will work closely with partners to ensure that there are clear routes into higher level skills training.
This additional support means employers will be able to develop their staff to a higher standard and attract the very best candidates to support improved productivity and performance as well as plans to grow and diversify their business.
For smaller businesses it means they will now be able to address some of the specific barriers they face in accessing Apprenticeships and in particular Higher Apprenticeships, as well as ensuring there are clear channels for progression for their existing apprentices and employees.
Let’s not forget too what Higher Apprenticeships offer apprentices – they will give access to exciting, new employment opportunities with great career progression options, and at the same time you are paid a wage while you learn. In the longer term they give access to a higher earning capacity as well as providing valuable professional skills.
Higher Apprenticeships open up career pathways and with more frameworks being approved all the time there will be more support for career progression than ever before.
We are working closely with employers and providers to ensure that these new Higher Apprenticeship frameworks clearly meet defined business needs and that they can be made available as quickly as possible to potential apprentices and their employers.
I’m confident that the Higher Apprenticeship fund will support employers to develop the skills they need for sustainable growth.
Some companies are already reaping the benefits of Advanced and Higher Apprenticeships, including BAE Systems who launched Skills 2020 in 2010 – an integrated skills and education programme to respond to the skills challenges of the next decade. Apprenticeships are a key part of this strategy, which enables BAE Systems to meet changing customer and business needs and meet future skills capability requirements.
Around 150 of BAE’s learners are currently on higher level programmes equivalent to Higher Apprenticeships, such as the A level entry Nuclear Trainee programme at the Submarines business. Numbers are likely to grow, in particular to deliver the high levels of technical skills needed to design and manufacture the successor submarine to the Vanguard Class. BAE Systems are currently working to remodel their higher level programme to adapt into a Higher Apprenticeship programme.
As Apprenticeships go from strength to strength with choices and new frameworks growing daily, we will continue to work with employers to ensure they can see the benefits of Apprenticeships and get the practical support and advice they need to introduce them into their business. There are currently over 200 types of Apprenticeships available from hospitality to graphic design, accountancy to electric vehicle engineering – providing potential apprentices and employers with over a thousand different job roles to choose from.
People often ask me why is this Government increasing the number of Apprenticeships to record levels and investing more money into the programme than any other Government. The answer is simple.
The Government know they work, we know they work, employers know they work and apprentices know they work. We have the proven facts.
Above all, Apprenticeships create jobs fuelling long-term growth and surely that’s a good thing not only for businesses and the economy, but our country too!
Simon Waugh is chairman of the National Apprenticeship Service (NAS)