Aaron Bradbury, Principal Lecturer in Early Childhood & Early Years, Nottingham Trent University

Utilising Training Providers to support Higher Education Apprenticeships, focusing primarily on the Certificate of Higher Education – Children, Young People and Families Apprenticeship Standard level 4.

Training Providers have been offering apprenticeships for a long time, offering a range of apprenticeships from level to level 5. However, more recently there has been a change within the apprenticeship landscape which has made way for Higher and Degree Apprenticeships.

This article discusses the approach as to why Universities need to work more closely with Training providers and how it can be achieved.

Trailblazer for the Children, Young People and Families Practitioner

This has come from my own experience as working alongside employers and supporting the leadership of the Trailblazer for the Children, Young People and Families Practitioner Community pathway apprenticeship level 4.

The apprenticeship standard has a mandated qualification of a Certificate of Higher education. This has had many implications for training providers, FE provisions by not having the ability to validate such a qualification as it has to be done by a University. However, with the right approach and links to Higher Education relationships, those training providers are able to access these qualifications by maintaining a relationship between the employer and the HE institute.

Having a robust approach to offering such a valued programme

Working across England supporting the movement of the apprenticeship standard has been quite slow with regards to the community pathway. However, I am now pleased to say that we now have HE institutes across England who have now Validated the Certificate of Higher Education and are starting to deliver the apprenticeship. In fact, there are now 7 HE institutions that have validated the qualification.

However, more needs to be done as It has not been easy with getting, HE institutes to share their Qualification for this apprenticeship, allowing partner colleagues from training provisions and FE to also deliver this qualification.

It may be multi-faceted with not knowing how to do this but making sure that you have the robust approach to offer such a valued programme to others is making strides in widening the landscape for Higher Education in the Children’s services sector.

Determined pioneers

However, there is a training provider who hasn’t stopped and has become very determined and making sure that their learners and their employers both locally and nationally have access to the qualification and apprenticeship standard. Train Ltd (TRN) are pioneering the way in launching the Community Pathway of the apprenticeship in collaboration with a Higher Education institute through a licence agreement of the Certificate of Higher Education.

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TRN is able to include a Certificate of Higher Education (Cert HE) qualification into its new Children, Young People and Families Practitioner apprenticeship, making it a Level 4 qualification that closes a gap in this type of apprenticeship provision. Previously, learners could not progress past Level 3 and up until now could only progress onto Level 5 management courses. However, now it opens many opportunities for learners to gain a Higher Education Qualification and then be able to progress onto further study either through another apprenticeship standard or Degree programme.

The apprenticeship is, ultimately, designed to upskill employees already working in Children and Young People services, School provision, Youth services, Early Years and Health. I would like other training providers to be a part of the discussions and approach HE institutions about working together.

We may face some reservations about Training Providers delivering university programmes. Why is that?

Normally due to the fact that they have ultimately only had experience delivering non university courses. But this is not the case. Training Providers go through a rigorous approach to quality assurance and internal verification both internally and externally. They are also Ofsted regulated and the majority are now providing a clear baseline for learning and continual adult education for apprenticeship learners.

TRN and other training providers can demonstrate a clear focus on quality and rigour and work with employers to provide greater opportunities to the landscape and the workforce within Community provision for children’s services. Currently TRN (Train ltd) are working across England, focusing primarily on the North and South of England working in partnership with large organisations to deliver the apprenticeship.

I have to say, I was sceptical when TRN approached me to offer them advice on how they could offer the Higher Education Qualification, and to be honest, I assumed it would only be offered within a University. But how wrong was I and to prove this they have been validated as a sole training provider to offer the CERT HE as their tutors are experts and are academically equipped to deliver the apprenticeship standard. TRN are a trailblazer themselves in making use of the expertise of their tutors  /lecturers as they come from the workforce themselves and can relate the theory to practice.

I have to state here that I didn’t know much about them at first, but the rigour, the expertise and qualifications of the tutors within the training organisation was of a high quality. It became apparent that they would be able to deliver the level 4 qualification, meeting the validation requirements within Higher education and continuing their own CPD journey. I just hope that we can continue to offer this model to other training providers so that they can also get hold of the CERT HE qualification.

Meeting the needs of the employer and the learner

TRN have been able to take the qualification across the UK, in some instances where Higher Education institutes can only deliver within their university, TRN have been able to take this to employers where there isn’t sufficient opportunities to access the provision of a University or a University in the area doesn’t or hasn’t validated the qualification.

By not sharing the qualification and giving small training providers access will ultimately mean that there is limited opportunity for small, and medium employers, and employers that are in rural areas. TRN have been instrumental at working with employers to make the apprenticeship standard achievable and to fit into the needs of the employer and the learner.

A training provider comes with many positive outcomes, including:

  • Offering multi-faceted approaches to learning
  • Expertise of Apprenticeships
  • Continual progression for learners in Children and Young people’s services
  • Flexible approaches
  • Rigour, expertise and knowledge
  • Can be flexible and provides a bridge between FE and HE

Using a mixed methods approach to learning and achievements which allows learners to widen their opportunities to access Higher Education through a different model in my eyes is one which is positive and allows for choice. TRN has given me a new set of knowledge and as it is National Apprenticeship Week 2020, I wanted to demonstrate the need to make apprenticeships mainstream, we must work more collaboratively together as an industry.

Higher education needs to maintain close relationships with the training providers and FE provisions within their local areas

This also allows CPD opportunities for the training workforce too, having access to industry experts, academic knowledge and an opportunity to succession plan for training providers with regards to staffing and future apprenticeship offers.

I don’t know about you, but the scepticism I faced when TRN and other training providers approached me was one I am sure comes from many Academics? But, we need to look at the needs of our workforce, the Children, Young People and Families practitioner and how they can access such a rigorous child centred apprenticeship through the support of their employers, how it is a necessity within this sector. I am pleased to say that I am now in the process of working with an FE College and another Training Organisation in the South. Exciting times ahead for apprenticeships in 2020.

It has been noted that, for a long time, we have not had a recognised qualification or standard which supports both the child and young person-centred practice, which now the apprenticeship is paving the way for a nationally recognised award which also celebrates the sector’s hard work and dedication within the community workforce.

Writing the Certificate of Higher Education for this standard and having collaborative partners like TRN across England to take up the training offer reflects the vision of the trailblazer group and one which we had planned to see as a group of professionals and practitioners, providing access to higher education, widening participation and demonstrating the need for a higher skilled and knowledgeable workforce.

One which is taken seriously, demonstrates the impact that we have on the child and ultimately the future of the child in society. It has taken a long time to get the apprenticeship off the ground, but with dedication and drive from the sector and my continual nagging that we need this Cert HE qualification we are now ready to offer this exciting and in much demand qualification.

I hope that many other HE providers also see how this can be positive to work alongside training providers through an equal partnership by being one cog in the wheel for our children and community. We all have a part to play with learning and what better way is that, through an apprenticeship that keeps the child at the centre of the course.

Aaron Bradbury, Principal Lecturer in Early Childhood & Early Years, Nottingham Trent University, Apprenticeship Consultant, and Co-founder of The Early Years Academy

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