From education to employment

Sugar coated opportunity to push Apprenticeships

It will not have escaped most of you that the latest series of Alan Sugar’s attempt to find an “Apprentice” has just begun on TV. This time, apparently, he is set to invest £250,000 to set one of the seemingly unemployable contestants up in business.

I would assume that Lord Sugar can afford it, particularly with the fees the BBC must pay him and the free publicity he gains from the programme. But what are you willing to invest to put the real apprentices, or perhaps more pertinently Apprenticeships, in the spotlight?

Later this month, a fantastic opportunity to do so is staring you in the face, as Apprenticeships get another week in the limelight. The 20th annual NIACE Adult Learners’ Week from May 14-20 and, within it, National Learning at Work Day, organised by the Campaign for Learning on May 18, both offer a platform for learning providers to speak directly to employers and adult learners.

Every year, Adult Learners’ Week seeks to inspire thousands of adults to find out how learning can transform lives. It celebrates learners in all their diversity, promoting the benefits of all kinds of learning, whether for fun or to gain a qualification.

The initiative is the largest drive for learning of its kind – celebrated in over 55 countries across the world. During the week, events take place in workplaces and colleges across the UK, motivating adults of all ages and backgrounds to take up new activities.

Last year, an estimated 100,000 adults engaged in over 4,000 learning events. In a survey of participants, 57% of the people who took part in activity enrolled on, or applied for, a course as a result of getting involved.

That of course is just one part of the story. Another important aspect is the role of the work-based learning industry in ensuring that the right messages are conveyed when gilt-edged opportunities arise.

Pearson Work Based Learning is getting involved in Adult Learners’ Week in a number of ways. Firstly, we are proud to be sponsoring the Apprentice of the Year award, a new addition to the Adult Learners’ Week Award Ceremony.

The introduction of this award is very significant, not only to acknowledge learners’ achievements, but also to demonstrate to employers the real value that apprentices can add to a business. To meet the Government’s aims for Apprenticeships to play a crucial role in rebuilding our economy, awards like this powerfully communicate the real-life stories of apprentices in successful businesses (as opposed to the one we all enjoy watching on TV!).

Pearson, like many of you, believes passionately in the work-based learning sector’s responsibility to help people make progress in their lives through learning. With more than 150 apprentices in our own workforce, we have a clear and direct insight into Apprenticeships from an employer’s perspective, allowing us to design and tailor our BTEC Apprenticeships to support individual business needs.

We hope the Apprenticeship of the Year award raises employers’ awareness of Apprenticeships, and removes some of the barriers that undoubtedly still exist to increasing the numbers of apprentices actively contributing to the growth of British business.

We will also be marking National Learning at Work Day ourselves with two new initiatives aimed at encouraging learning amongst our own staff.

National Learning at Work Day is an annual event to support and promote the value of workplace learning and skills. It involves companies all over the country holding special learning and training activities to celebrate and stimulate learning all year round, with a particular focus on engaging employees that are least likely to take up learning opportunities. Participants range from SMEs to multinationals and span both public and private sectors.

At Pearson, we will be running special Coaching for Managers workshops at our offices around the UK, providing managers with top tips, literature and training on ways to better engage their team to take up further learning opportunities. Additionally, a two-year process comes to fruition as we launch our learning management system across the company. This online resource will enable all of our employees to access details of every course available to them, book themselves onto those courses and chart their development path to improve their opportunities for progression.

Lord Sugar is renowned for saying the best leaders are famous for their clarity and their vision. I think believing and investing in Apprenticeships demonstrates both of these invaluable traits. He also said, however: “There’s only room for one bigmouth in my organisation, and that’s me.” We are proud to be giving our staff a voice – let’s support these two great initiatives to give this nation’s adults a greater chance to be heard.

Trevor Luker is managing director of Pearson Work Based Learning

Read other FE News articles by Trevor Luker:

Practical skills will drive recovery

Help employers help themselves

Celebrating Apprenticeships

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