Just over a year ago, we supported a delegation across the pond to visit both Washington and Baltimore to share our combined experiences of Apprenticeships in the UK. Indeed, I broke into my holiday in Florida and leaped onto a plane to join the group.
A year later, we have truly dipped our toes and we are operational with our first Apprenticeship centre in Baltimore with plans to roll out more down the Eastern Seaboard over the next few years. We have 40 centres in England so why not 400 in the USA over the next few years.
What have we learned so far?
- The Apprenticeship system in the USA is many years behind our own systems. They are looking to the UK, Switzerland and Germany to shape and grow provision with the opportunity being enormous.
- Community Colleges have dabbled with Apprenticeships in the past and as with the UK, this approach has not been particularly successful. Money is now being provided by individual states for capacity building consultancy where much of this funding is going to the Community Colleges. For us, this is a distraction to the real opportunity.
- Our model is truly commercial with no funding tariffs, no ILR’s and no SFA audit for us in the USA. It is simply about getting employers to support young people into Apprenticeships and getting them to fund their studies and assessment in the workplace. If you want to enter the market and have the federal or state Government to fund it in the same manner as we do in the UK, you will be waiting a very long time. My advice is don’t bother if you want public funding to provide whatever is required.
- Whilst the Federal Government can be very supportive, you have to remember that there are 50 states in the USA, each with their own approval mechanisms and bureaucratic procedures. That means a separate registration in Maryland, a separate registration in Florida etc. You think our system is complex, slow and cumbersome but we are in heaven compared with the experiences in the USA.
- Breaking the American Dream – All parents apparently want their children to attend ‘College’ and live the dream. Four years of debt and high levels of non-attainment and no employment at the end of it. Does that sound familiar? At least we do have an alternative in the UK with Apprenticeships and here lies the opportunity for the USA.
And what have we achieved?
- We signed our agreement to operate from April 2017.
- We now have a fully equipped center on the outskirts of Baltimore that is open and doing business.
- A team of local staff and imposters from the UK are now in place and recruiting both employers and Apprentices.
- Our programmes have been warmly welcomed by Apprentices, parents and employers across the city and in the suburbs.
Our model is not what we envisaged. Employers are comfortable at paying the recruitment and training fees for their Apprentices (the alternative is a recruitment fee from an Agency for a graduate with no guarantee of success). We thought there would be more resistance to this and we were pleasantly surprised. Building from this, we started trying to transplant our UK knowledge and systems into the USA format and our most exciting prospect is that we are not bound by regulations faced in the UK of defined assessment in the workplace or end point assessment so we can truly design and implement an employer-led system that works for both the Apprentice and employer.
On reflection, would we have still done it, given what we know now? Absolutely. It requires tenacity, investment, flexibility, a never give up attitude, a team of staff willing to watch rounders (or is it baseball) and that game they call ‘football’. We certainly have not got the answers to everything but being on the ground enables us to drive through the difficulties, spot the opportunities and break into a new market. The next location will be Florida in early 2017. I’m overwhelmed with staff wanting a secondment to Orlando, but it’s not a holiday with Mickey and Minnie, it is real hard work. We are changing the lives and opportunities of young people in the USA as we do here in the UK.
Peter Marples, Joint Owner of 3aaa – Aspire Achieve Advance