Joining a fledgling organisation can be a leap of faith. Setting up an organisation with high government expectations – and a key role to play in the economic recovery of a country in recession – is not something many would jump at. But nearly two years on, having made that decision, I am delighted I made that leap of faith as between us we have helped create a true resurgence in Apprenticeships. A fact highlighted by the 2009/10 figures which came out last week. These showed that, working with providers around the country, we have helped to grow the number of apprentices starting their careers to a record 279,700 last year.
Part of this growth has been achieved by steadily increasing penetration in industries which are not traditionally associated with Apprenticeships, such as the financial, IT and creative and cultural sectors. Growing Apprenticeships in these new areas is making a big difference to the number of employers we are able to support – and the number of apprentices who are able to get started on their career through an Apprenticeship. All these new businesses make a huge difference to the role that we all play, without their support Apprenticeships would not be what they are today.
But despite the great growth in numbers we cannot rest on our laurels. We must continue to work hard to engage with employers and make our work with them a focal point of our activity.
There was not just good news on those starting Apprenticeships however. There was also good news on those completing them. Last week we saw great figures on success rates, showing that nearly 74% of apprentices now fully complete their training. A fantastic way to start our year.
Another great way to start the year is Apprenticeship Week. This is next week, and seems to have snuck up rather quickly! We have already been told by partners about nearly 500 events lined up across the country for the Week. Nearly 100 MPs have pledged their support to Apprenticeship Week and many of them will be visiting colleges, providers and employers around England.
To kick off Apprenticeship Week, BIS Secretary of State, Rt Hon Vince Cable, London Mayor Boris Johnson, BIS and DfE Joint Minister John Hayes and myself will be on stage at BT to talk to 150 employers about the benefits that Apprenticeships can bring to all types of companies; large and small, in all types of industry. We know that providers all round the country will be holding similar events. And if you are not at an event you can actually watch me (although I imagine Vince Cable and Boris Johnson will be more of a draw) here.
If you want to know what is going on in your area for Apprenticeship Week I would urge you to go to our website to find out more.
My personal thanks goes out to all those in colleges and learning providers who have come up with some incredibly creative, interesting and informative events for the week to help spread our joint message far and wide. I hope you are all looking forward to the Week as much as we are here at NAS.
And just as Apprenticeship Week plays a huge part in our calendar – so do the Apprenticeship Awards. We launched the 2011 awards a few weeks ago. The Apprenticeship Awards celebrate the success of the top apprentices and employers and this year we have a new element: The Top 100 Apprentice Employers. So if you would like to nominate one of the employers you work with, or even yourselves if you employ apprentices, then please visit our website to apply: www.apprenticeships.org.uk
Finally, earlier this month, our minister John Hayes delivered the new guarantee for Apprenticeships through the Specification of Apprenticeship Standards in England (SASE). The development of the SASE will ensure that all Apprenticeships deliver high quality and nationally recognised qualifications relevant to the skill, trade or occupation of the learner. By setting these standards we aim to ensure consistency across the 200 frameworks we offer, so every apprentice will receive at least 280 hours of guided training per year, and all apprentices will qualify with a good standard of literacy, numeracy and ICT where relevant. We know there are some questions around how SASE will work so we are working with the Skills Funding Agency to answer these for you. To see these updates on SASE please visit: http://skillsfundingagency.bis.gov.uk/providers/allthelatest/sase/
I began by saying I took a leap of faith joining Government to oversee the growth in Apprenticeships. Every apprentice and employer I meet repays that faith when I hear their stories of how Apprenticeships have changed their lives, and their businesses. And if there ever was a time to jump on the Apprenticeships bandwagon that time is now. Climb on board…
Simon Waugh is chairman of the National Apprenticeship Service (NAS)