From education to employment

Lessons from National Apprenticeship Week 2013

National Apprenticeship Week took place last month and proved to be a nationwide success. The overarching theme was ‘Apprenticeships Deliver’ and throughout the week the National Apprenticeship Service, who co-ordinate the event, showed that they do just that.

To mark the beginning of the week, the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) published a report forecasting that apprenticeship completions will bring in £3.4 billion a year to the UK economy by 2022; a very significant sum and economic impact indeed.

During the week I attended the Unionlearn Conference highlighting the importance of Apprenticeships. Lord Adonis, a trustee of the Edge Foundation, gave the keynote speech and made the point that, “There should- at the age of 18 or 19- be as many good quality apprenticeship places on offer as there are university places”. A particular highlight of the day was hearing directly from a group of apprentices about their experiences. While they were clearly enjoying their apprenticeships all four of them made the worrying point that they had been given no information, advice or guidance pointing them in the direction of apprenticeships while at school. It is quite clear much more needs to be done to improve the information and advice about the options open to young people if we are to increase the take up of apprenticeships to the level the government envisages and the country needs.

For me, a real highlight of the whole week was being invited by the National Apprenticeship Service to attend the Made by Apprentices Reception hosted by the Deputy Prime Minister at which a group of apprentices demonstrated their skills and talents. The passion and commitment they apply to their learning was evident and so impressive (to view the Made by Apprentices photo gallery click here). What we really need is more young people like this; we should be encouraging the engineers, chefs and pharmacists of the future to seek out these alternative routes into the world of work.

However, the onus shouldn’t just be on students, we need to see a system where higher apprenticeships are a genuine and valued alternative to a degree and this involves schools, colleges and other learning institutions working with employers and educating everyone on all the options.

The government’s response to the Richard Review of Apprenticeships was also published during the week and we warmly welcomed the emphasis it placed on strengthening the quality of apprenticeships. As well as this, it highlighted the need for employers to be involved with designing apprenticeship standards and qualifications. Once implemented this would be a key step towards achieving the recognition apprenticeships deserve and making them a viable and valuable choice in the eyes of students, parents, teachers and employers.

As champions of technical, practical and vocational education, we at Edge are really excited that the future for apprenticeships is so bright. With the backing of the government and industry alongside the support of household names such as Raymond Blanc and Barclays we are really seeing a change in the way vocational routes are being perceived and increasingly demonstrating that there are many paths to success.

National Apprenticeship Week 2014 will take place between the 3rd and 7th March. Visit for more information about this year’s event.

Jan Hodges is chief executive of Edge, the independent education foundation dedicated to raising the status of technical, practical and vocational learning

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