Celebrating the best in English Apprenticeships

Last week I had the great fortune of attending the 14th National Apprenticeship awards.

It is always one of the highlights in the FE calendar and a welcome opportunity to celebrate the positives in apprenticeships.

After last year’s awards I wrote about the end of the age of innocence and how new levy paying employers would soon be challenging those ‘torch bearing employers’. – who kept apprenticeships alive through the 1980s and 90s - for the awards.

All of us in Apprenticeships owe a great debt to British - Aerospace/Gas/Telecomm etc and it is great to see those companies now adopting the role of award sponsors, allowing new apprenticeship employers to shine.

This year there were winners from the Tourism, Pharmaceutical, and Finance Services sectors (as well as Engineering, Beauty and Armed forces amongst others), highlighting the breadth of Apprenticeships in England today.

Special shout-outs here to Lloyds Bank (shortlisted again!) and the Yorkshire Building Society (best large newcomer) both of who we know well and are proud to support.

Spotlights, highlights and limelights

Although no one wants to hear long political speeches at these events, it was noticeable that there was no senior government representative present (we have had the Deputy PM, and Ministers attend in previous years). We did however have Helen Grant MP, who I thought spoke well and is now an Apprenticeship diversity champion. 

Sue Husband of the National Apprenticeship Service hosted and did an excellent job, ensuing that the limelight rightly fell upon the Apprentices and their employers.

And the show was definitely stolen by the young Apprentices.

Jordan Coulton and Lilley Deevey were great as host apprentices and I thought that Simeon Powell of the Young Ambassadors network was a real star. They surely have bright futures ahead of them.

And Jordan came up with the line of the evening:

“I could have been the first in my family to go to university – but instead I was the first to complete an apprenticeship!”

As Dr Nyhan the Irish Apprenticeship academic once notably wrote ‘apprenticeships are about the passing of skills from generation to the next.’

The build up to National Apprenticeship Week 2018

This week we should get the crucial autumn apprenticeship starts figures. No doubt they will show that numbers are still well below those that have been achieved in previous years.

And if volumes are low then it means there will be an awful lot of unspent Levy money left in the pot at the end of the government financial year.

These factors will then colour the debate in the run up to NAW 2018.

Mark Dawe (AELP) has repeatedly warned that in the long-term, levy funds alone will not be sufficient to meet all demand – and I have no reason to doubt him. However this year, next year and for the foreseeable future there will be a surplus and we might all have a think about how this could be used (rather than it going back into HMT from 2019 onwards).

My suggestion would be something that helps employers take on more apprentices and train more staff, as we approach and negotiate Brexit and its potential labour shortages. Perhaps extending the employers apprenticeship N.I. breaks to apprentices of all ages or allowing the levy to pay for the 20% of an apprentice’s salary...

Suggestions on a postcard to HMT!

Richard Marsh, Apprenticeship Partnership Director, Kaplan Financial UK

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