Each year, National Apprenticeship Week (#NAW2022) acts as a stark reminder for people and businesses to recognise the importance and role apprenticeships play in the lives of the UK’s next generation of workers. Now in its 15th year, the annual week-long celebration, between 7th-13th February 2022, seeks to bring together UK businesses and apprentices to shine a light on the positive impact that apprenticeships make to individuals, businesses, and the wider economy. Facilitated by HMRC’s Education & Skills Funding Agency, there are over 1,200 virtual and in-person events taking place all of which will highlight the impact of apprenticeships.
In truth, no one has a linear career path. Even those who remain loyal to one company will find their core discipline varies over time. That trend is even more prevalent in young people’s career paths today – hence why this year’s theme for National Apprenticeship Week of ‘Build the Future’ is so important and apt for the current economic climate considering the fundamental efforts to ‘Build Back Better’ following the pandemic.
Across our schools within The Kemnal Academies Trust (TKAT), we make use of the official apprenticeship levy on a case-by-case basis to further the professional development of our staff. This is most often used as part of individual school recruitment and development strategies.
For example, the apprenticeship levy has enabled us to further the professional development for a range of our staff members. This includes one of our Business Managers at one of our primary schools who is currently studying for their level 4 apprenticeship in School Business Professional. A support staff team member is also currently undertaking a Level 3 Learning Mentor apprenticeship.
Most recently, one of our primary schools has used the levy to employ an apprentice in the Nursery school through the Level 2 Early Years Practitioner apprenticeship.
Looking forward, we are working towards implementing a trust wide strategy to make better use of the levy and continue with our successful recruitment and development of our highly skilled workforce. As part of TKAT’s strategy, we will be developing a career pathway for existing staff from support staff through to leadership including non-educational staff. One example of this involves using the apprenticeship programme to support the development of our ACE Tutors to become highly skilled in their role combining practical training with continuous study. Apprenticeships are integral to people’s career pathway conversations and this will form a key part of our commitment to TKAT’s professional development entitlement for all current and future staff.
But we know there’s more to be done within the UK’s education sector. Greater awareness of apprenticeship schemes for students and how these opportunities are communicated is needed.
Pupils should be aware of all their options far earlier in the career decision-making process. There are many alternatives to higher education, many of which may make more sense for certain pupils. For example, in addition to apprenticeships, there are also traineeships for 18- to 24-year-olds and T Levels for 16- to 18-year-olds, both specifically designed to help pupils build up their skills and workplace experience.
To help pupils understand their options, there needs to be better access to free, online resources, career counselling and suitability testing for all initiatives. For many, the opportunity to work and earn money while learning a skill will be much more attractive than three years of more study. But with university and grades still the focus, many may not realise that there are alternatives.
This requires further commitment and funding from the government, industry bodies and education sectors to ensure we are incentivising our pupils to think broader than just university. This also means that as schools we need to reduce our focus on grades and think more widely about how we are equipping pupils for life after school. Every pupil is different, and we must treat them as such. Apprenticeships have and will continue to play a vital role in the development of people’s skills. Whether it’s about building up an individual’s self-confidence, attracting new talent, learning new skills, learning to work in a professional setting; there are so many benefits to both pupils and employers.
Dr Karen Roberts, CEO of The Kemnal Academies Trust (TKAT)