From education to employment

National Apprenticeship Week provides a good opportunity to reflect on how we can make things even better

Jennifer Coupland, Chief Executive Officer (CEO), the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education

Jennifer Coupland started as Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education @IFAteched last November. She reflects below on the joys of #NationalApprenticeshipWeek #NAW2020 and her top five priorities looking ahead:

1. Establishing our employer credentials

It is thrilling to be into the swing of NAW. It’s a fantastic opportunity to get out there and celebrate everything that’s innovative and exciting about apprenticeships.

My favourite week of the year skills-wise also provides a good opportunity to reflect on how we can make things even better.

The Institute must work hard at becoming an even closer ally of employers, to help ensure that the apprenticeships and T Levels system we’re helping them roll out is truly capable of filling the skills gap.

While there have been lots of kind words said about the work we do, by employers developing apprenticeships and employer groups, I appreciate that there is a more we can do to establish our employer credentials.

This will be the key theme of my time as CEO.

2. Simplifying EQA and funding bands

We will also be launching public consultations in the coming weeks on our plans to simplify:

I can assure you that there will be a big drive to make these key areas of our work more transparent and easier to understand.

3. Launching T Levels

Another exciting priority, that is dear to my heart, will be the launch in September of the first T Levels. This will of course be a completely new form of technical education, which is more classroom based than apprenticeships but still involves significant work experience. I’m pleased to report that this is progressing well.

I said in my job interview that I would like to think I’m uniquely qualified to lead the Institute.

This is because I have spent much of the last decade rolling out apprenticeship and technical education reforms. My previous role was Director of Professional and Technical Education at the Education and Skills Funding Agency, part of the Department for Education (DfE), where my focus was on preparing T Levels for launch.

Prior to that I was Deputy Director of the Apprenticeships Unit where I was responsible for apprenticeship reforms, including creating the first Trailblazer employer groups to lead on designing new apprenticeships.

I was incredibly proud to see how far we have come at the Institute’s Employer Summit in Birmingham before Christmas. I got to meet hundreds of committed employers who have played a key role in developing new apprenticeships and T Levels since we started on this journey together.

4. Helping organisations get the skills they need to succeed

I am fortunate to be following in the footsteps of my predecessor Sir Gerry Berragan, who did a fantastic job of establishing the Institute and I know was widely respected.

I see my role now as taking us to the next stage in our development – which will be establishing the Institute as a more independent force in the employer-led skills training system.

Our unique selling point is that we work directly with thousands of employers from across the whole economy to develop new apprenticeships and technical qualifications. This means we are in a great position to help their organisations get the skills they need to succeed.

The employer-led skills reforms have already resulted in a much broader variety of apprenticeships up to degree level and beyond. That is what I remember employers told us they wanted, when the Richard Review on apprenticeships first mapped out how we should reform the system way back in 2012.

If we continue along this route, taking on board the views of training providers and awarding organisations as everything beds-in, then the skills system will in turn work better for apprentices.

5. Supporting social mobility

We welcome the Prime Minister’s recent commitment to harnessing apprenticeships’ ability to support social mobility. I look forward to working with the government on this.

With more than 500 apprenticeship standards now available, there are fantastic opportunities for progression. People from a wider variety of backgrounds can for example earn and learn their way to becoming nurses, paramedics, accountants, solicitors, actuaries, laboratory technicians, and architects through apprenticeships.

Our revamped occupational maps, which can be found on our website, chart the best routes that apprentices can progress from entry-level right up to degree-level.

Where people need to go to with their enquiries and who is best placed to help

There’s no doubt that the system can be made easier for employers and apprentices to understand and use.

We will be making changes to our website and working closely with the DfE and National Apprenticeship Service, to enable clearer signposting of where people need to go to with their enquiries and who is best placed to help.

As a good rule of thumb:

  • The Education and Skills Funding Agency manages engagement with providers.
  • The National Apprenticeship Service’s help page is a great one stop shop for employer and apprentice enquiries.
  • We [the Institute] are here to help employers design and rollout new apprenticeships and T Levels and our enquiries team is ready to answer any questions about that process.

A key success marker for my time leading the Institute will be how closely we are able to develop our working relationship with employers. I want them to view us as their champion in the apprenticeships and technical education arena, so we can work together on realising the full potential of an employer-led skills system that works for everyone.

Jennifer Coupland, Chief Executive Officer (CEO), the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education

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