Dr Neil Bentley, Chief Executive, WorldSkills UK

It is arguably one of the most pivotal days in the education calendar and in recent years A Level Results day has afforded a great opportunity to promote apprenticeships to young people as a real alternative to going to University.

This year will be no different.

However as students up and down the country gather on Thursday 18 August to find out their much anticipated results, they will be doing so against the backdrop of the EU Referendum result and its consequences.

   

Leading up to the vote, concerns had been expressed about the apprenticeship programme in the UK in the event of us leaving the EU.  In particular, there was much discussion around whether the   target of creating three million apprenticeships by 2020 would be unachievable and need to be reviewed.

As the dust settles and with news expected imminently on the levy, rather than sending a death knell to apprenticeships, the post Brexit environment that we find ourselves in is presenting a clear opportunity to align our work on world-class standards with global economic ambitions.  

The launch of the new Department of International Trade and its responsibility for attracting new inward investment and trade partners has the potential to lead to great jobs.  I say ‘potential’ because in this exciting plan to attract new international investment I believe we are overlooking a vital part of the jigsaw.  The missing piece is our ability to show potential investors and trade partners that we can truly offer a world-class workforce.

When I was the Deputy Head of the CBI, I was frequently told by companies who were seeking to invest for the first time or increase their investment in the UK that it was the skills of our workforce that was a concern.  This shows that if the new strategies for growth are to be realised, there needs to be a collaborative approach from government, businesses and training providers to ensure that quality remains at the forefront of the apprenticeship programmes in this country.   

The important thing is we aren’t starting from a blank canvass.  Our success at the recent international WorldSkills Competition, in which the UK was placed seventh in the rankings beating France and Germany, shows we have the knowledge to design training programmes that develop apprentices to carry out their roles to the highest global standards.  However, we need to ensure the theory behind the approach that we use to prepare our competitors for the WorldSkills Competitions is transferred into and used to underpin the apprenticeship programmes here in the UK. 

The WorldSkills UK Professional Development Programme is designed to do just that.  Intended for  

teaching professionals, trainers and employers, the programme which launches this Autumn, shows how competition based activity can be embedded into any training programme to raise standards.  This new approach to accelerated learning is proven to motivate apprentices, enhance their skills and knowledge which in turn increases productivity for businesses in the long term.  It is this new approach that will help to secure the competitive future we are now starting to see take shape and show potential investors that we do have the highly skilled workforce that they value.

Of course this approach to training apprentices will only work if we have the ambitious young candidates to take the places. 

We need to do more to promote apprenticeships.  Yes we must continue to showcase the many benefits this training offers a young person, but this year we can’t ignore the impact of Brexit.  Our future workforce will need the mind-sets and skill sets to work in globalised workplaces.  It is a high quality apprenticeship programme that will develop these abilities.  Surely that’s an attractive proposition for any ambitious young person looking to secure a great career ahead of them when they’re considering their next steps on A Level Results Day.    

Dr Neil Bentley, Chief Executive, WorldSkills UK 

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