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The vaccine roll-out provides a model of how we can create success in further education

Mark Creighton, CEO of Avado
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This year’s Budget was a little lighter on information about new schemes for young people than many expected.

That said, it remains clear that providing alternative routes into work for the generation hardest hit by this recession is high on the government’s list of priorities.

The chancellor announced cash incentives for firms to take on new apprentices — of any ag e— on top of existing funding.

A further £126 million was announced for the government’s traineeships programme, which will hopefully attract 40,000 new starters, with businesses recompensed £1,000 per trainee.

The Chancellor also announced a £7 million fund for ‘portable’ or ‘flexi’ apprenticeships, which would allow apprentices to move between employers during their apprenticeship.

This will be highly relevant to the creative and construction sectors, where on-the-job experience being deployed with different employers will ensure relevant experience is gained to complement off-the-job technical training.

The broader application across other industry sectors will need further clarification.

I’m encouraged to see the government shifting the definition of apprenticeships to one which responds to upskilling the UK’s entire workforce. It remains critical to employ and train young people, after a year of so many job losses in combination with the widening skills gap in areas like cyber and digital.

However, we must support everyone with opportunities to gain new skills throughout their career, to ensure prosperity and equality. By opening apprenticeships to everyone, people of all ages and backgrounds can succeed regardless of their education or socio-economic status.

By increasing the funding available to individuals to support their technical skills through the National Skills Fund, the government is sending a clear message that upskilling our entire economy is a high priority and essential to its recovery. I believe offering a spectrum of government-funded skills opportunities will make sure people of all ages do not lose out in the skill’s equation.

Funding is only part of the problem that needs to be solved 

The low number of apprenticeship starts over the last 12 months, indicate that significant consultation is required with employers to determine how to re-engage organisations with apprenticeships beyond the pandemic.

The government needs to work with employers to ensure that they understand the skills and courses that are needed. Education also needs to happen to make sure employers know what funding is available to them, how to access it, and what the advantages to their business would be when taking apprentices on.

To a certain extent, the pandemic has exposed one of the great paradoxes of modern workplaces: employers talk constantly about their desire to increase diversity, digital skills, and fresh thinking amongst their workforces, and yet young people who are most likely to be able to offer these skills, are the first victims of the contraction caused by the crisis. Businesses simply cannot flourish and recover without new talent, and government need to emphasise this when communicating this range of new funding and programmes.

At Avado, we’ve seen evidence of how this could work first-hand through our FastFutures programme. Through FastFutures we worked with a number of UK employers to provide a free training course and mentorship programme for young people, particularly those from backgrounds typically underrepresented in these businesses.

The scheme has been a great success so far, and since August we have seen more than 2,000 graduates from the programme, with 11,000 applications. Because we worked with employers, and employers in turn worked with the young people, we’ve also seen a strong employment rate as those on the programme gain both the skills and the opportunity to impress businesses.

To ensure that further education gets to where it needs to be, the government must collaborate with employers, providers, and the rest of the private sector, to ensure that the best possible use is made of all funding. We all want to see educational routes open to all, no matter their age or background, and in a period of so much change, this imperative has become clearer than ever. This time has also shown us what can be achieved with imagination and commitment—now, we must put the lessons of the last 12 months into practice to protect the jobs of the future.

Mark Creighton, CEO of Avado

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