From education to employment

Structured support can build bridges

There are several reasons an employer could decide that the Apprenticeship route might not be for them and their company. And we all know that the easiest thing in the world when faced with what appears to be a tricky decision to avoid the need to make any decision at all.

Typically, the three key barriers I encounter are:

  • a lack of understanding of the ultimate benefit of employing Apprentices;

  • the fear that managing an Apprentice through their learning will be too time-consuming, too difficult or too expensive;

  • and, before that stage is even reached, the perception that the entire process is too bureaucratic and will be swallowed up in red tape.

Our role as WBL providers is to break down those barriers for employers and I think it’s fair to say that this is an area where our industry has been weak in the past. We have not been as open or transparent as we could have been at times and to a large degree, operated with employers in a transactional way, rather than engaging properly, understanding their needs beyond the realms of training and lending them a helping hand from start to finish of their talent management and leadership programmes and how an Apprenticeship programme can support these objectives.

It’s time for us to stand up and accept that we have not done enough to demystify the Apprenticeship framework for employers. As an industry, we have never fully embraced our responsibility to reduce the bureaucratic burden for employers, to get close enough to them to instil confidence in their ability to manage Apprentices within their businesses, or to offer the flexible delivery models that the modern business environment is crying out for.

With Apprenticeships now playing such a key role in government policy, there is no doubt that employers are viewing them as a more credible solution for the training and development of new and existing staff. That’s all well and good, but how can you as an education provider ensure that they don’t resist the temptation because of the obstacles they put in front of themselves?

Support rarely gets top billing when it comes to sales. In my view, however, it is the support package you provide that will differentiate you in the marketplace. You have a lot of competitors who are able to deliver similar Apprenticeships. But will they be giving the same level of relevant support to their customers? Can they adequately address the doubts of the business world by demonstrating an understanding of its demands and constraints? And can they reassure employers that delivery of an Apprenticeship programme will be made as easy as possible for them? If you fall down in any of these areas, you’ve got some work to do.

As an awarding body, that is also what we feel differentiates us. We believe it is our position to support you, in order that you can better support your customers. The support package we provide is designed to help delivery along the entire Apprenticeship chain.

Last week, we sent out thousands of new assessment workbooks for BTEC Apprentices and delivery guides for the deliverers of those Apprenticeships. They give the key people the backbone to the successful completion of any course. Education providers now have extensive guidelines to hand on the delivery methods of a BTEC Apprenticeship. Apprentices have been provided with a clearly defined contextual structure to steer them step-by-step through their learning programme.

Crucially, both of these documents can also build the bridge between the education system and the employer, as a tangible delivery mechanism that tracks the performance and achievement of their Apprentices and offers a simple solution for them to monitor and support them through the process. Practical support resources such as these, alongside other resources Pearson offers such as on-line, on-demand testing, could be the key tools that convince employers that their barriers and challenges can be overcome.

Our long-term success depends on employers creating the right working environment for Apprentices. Like anyone in work, Apprentices need to feel motivated to succeed and that they have genuine and committed support within their business. We can be part of that process – our experience shows us that this is necessary. For a business to gain maximum benefit from its Apprentices, it must be able and willing to structure itself to give them the best opportunity to succeed within its distinct parameters.

For me, the development of people is an integral part of any business development plan. But a plan without a goal is just a wish. By opening employers’ eyes to the value of Apprenticeships and removing their doubts around delivery, we can help re-define their goals for them.

Trevor Luker is managing director of Pearson Work Based Learning

Read other FE News articles by Trevor Luker:

Sugar coated opportunity to push Apprenticeships

Practical skills will drive recovery

Help employers help themselves

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