Thomas Burton, Director of Apprenticeships, NOCN

Across the Apprenticeship World in 25 Days

“It’s really useful to travel, if you want to see new things” Jules Verne, Around the world in Eighty days.

Apprenticeships and vocational skills training have never been more at the forefront of the world’s education agenda and this July has seen me go full Phileas Fogg mode, crossing 14 time zones in four days, travelling through five different international airports making my way first to India and eventually to the United State of America, on a global apprenticeship voyage of discovery.

As the world moves in to the forth Industrial revolution and the new decade, the need for highly skilled, competent and a capable human capital will be at the heart of all organisations future growth strategies. Vocational training and specifically apprenticeships are now being viewed by governments, state departments and multi-national employers as the route to a sustainable pipeline of workforce talent.

As a global education charity, NOCN’s education projects reach across the education world, including the United Arab Emirates, Hong Kong, India, China, Malaysia, Southern Europe and developing involvement with the United States. As NOCN’s Director of Apprenticeships, I have the pleasure to be part of this global drive for a highly skilled and productive workforce.

India Degree Apprenticeships Pilot

Manchester – Dubai – Delhi.

India is a human resource power house, the scale of the Indian population (1.3 Billion) equivalent to 17.74% of the total world population and the future trajectory of its economic growth, is demanding a skilled workforce which rivals any of the western nations.

India has an established apprenticeship system, so the work of myself, NOCN and our Apprenticeships team, is not beginning at ground zero. But the concept of degree level apprenticeships is a huge leap in both regulation reform and delivery.

This degree apprenticeship pilot is under commission from the UK’s Department for International Development (DfID) as part of their Skills for India project. The pilot is to introduce elements of the UK’s reformed degree apprenticeships system.

The outcomes of the pilot will be used platform to form conclusions and make suggestions on how the Indian Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship, could reform their Apprenticeships act and accelerate the Indian vocational education system.

My July visit was the third this year, with the objective of the trip to support and develop the on-programme mentors and work place tutors at Haryana, Shri Vishwakarma Skill University (SVSU), one of India’s first vocational skills universities established in 2016 via an legislative act of Government of Haryana, to impart skills training.

The two-day training session, was facilitated by one of NOCN’s Lead End Point Assessors; Karen Martin. Karen’s focus was on the UK model of teaching and applying in a constant learning cycle, along with developing key mentoring skills of the India trainers. The staff of SVSU were welcoming and eager to learn about the methods used in the UK system, for teaching, tracking and formative assessment of learners on programme.

One of the key points of discussion was the UK’s system of Internal quality assurance and recording of on-the-job training, a much higher focus in the Indian system, than the UK’s fixation of “off the job”. A long conversation was had on how the pilot could support the move to the use of a digital platform, and the staff at SVSU were keen to see just how a digital platform such as Onefile could be used to track on the job progress and learning.

Our final day in New Delhi, was a visit to the Indian skills regulator the National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) to take part in a round table discussion on some of the pilot’s logistics, specifics of curriculum design and delivery with stakeholders from the pilot such as the Indian sector skills council for Banking and Financial Services (BFSI) and project manager from KPMG.

Finally, we wrapped up the India visit by thanking Dr Sunil Abrol, Director of NOCN India Skills Foundation for been our fixer on the ground and ensuring that our brief but effective three days were organised perfectly. We reached our flight back to the UK, via Dubai at 21:30 local time, touching down at 7:00 UK. First stage of this epic month of travel done.

Home for 52 hours

7am Manchester airport, slightly damp and all very grey and monotone compared to the vibrancy of Delhi and India. As often the case when arriving back from a trip, the UK seems almost foreign, not quite real in some respects.

May that be down to the sensory overload which India gives you, or simply the effect of jet lag and spending the middle of the night in a faraway airport waiting for flight connections.

Either way it was good to be home. Que a fast turnaround of washing and re-packing ready for the next trip, oh and a touch of what experienced India travellers call; “Delhi Belly” but trust me, the less said on this matter is best for all readers.

United State of America

Doncaster – London – Heathrow – Los Angeles – San Diego

4:30am I am back in a taxi, heading once again with my luggage from my home in north Doncaster. My train departs for London at 5:07am, not even chance to grab a much needed coffee at this time in the morning. My only company on the platform are the cleaners and a handful of other early risers. The journey this morning is one which has some history, the Flying Scotsman route, between Edinburgh and London first established in 1862, a full ten years before the fictional Phileas Fogg sets off on his round the world journey. But let’s not get all Michael Portillo in this blog and skip forward to landing in LAX, the largest and busiest international airport on the U.S. West Coast and one of the major international gateways to the United States.

Since 2015, The Transatlantic Apprenticeship Exchange Forum (TAEF) has been promoting U.K. apprenticeship services providers in the U.S.

America has Apprenticeship, (yes they leave the “s” off in California) but it is a state by state designed and controlled system, however things are evolving and developing at both senior state and government levels.

The trade missions are focused on forging new commercial possibilities between apprenticeship service providers on both sides of the pond. The trade missions have been a feature of NOCN’s international portfolio for three years now and along with The Associate of Employer and Learning Providers (AELP). This year’s trade mission was focused on developing partnerships to address the needs of US employers, workforce development agencies and young people in the state of California.

The objective of these UK-US missions is to foster partnerships between the two skills systems by developing innovation, best-practice, joint thinking and importantly in a post-Brexit landscape, global relationships. The US views the UK model as one of great opportunity and has admiration for the UK apprenticeships reforms which took place in 2016/17, seeing the introduction of the apprenticeship levy as the “moon shot” for apprenticeship conversations and industry buy-in and although the UK is not 100% perfect, it is recognised as becoming a high output and effective skills development system.

UK and California are comparable case studies (apart from the perfect beaches, warm climate, outside living and Disneyland).

California has an estimated population of 39.75 million, almost two thirds the population of the UK (66.87m), If California were its own nation, it would be the fifth largest economy in the world. With a GDP of $2.9 trillion (UK $2.829 trillion) , California would slot between Germany and the United Kingdom in the world's top economies, there are 3.9 million small businesses in California, making up 99.8% of the state's businesses, those companies employ nearly 50% of the state's workforce.

In California there are 75,000 apprentices today. The state's goal, as stated in the 2016-2020 California State Workforce Plan, is to double the number of apprenticeships by 2026 from 64,000 to 128,000. Currently the 75,000 is made up from firefighters and construction trades, with increasing participation from healthcare and cyber-digital industries.

Apprenticeship numbers, 75,000 in California are less than one percent (0.19%) of the population, UK 2017/18 814,800 people participating in an apprenticeship in England 1.23% of the population. Comparable numbers, so why so few apprentices, the major difference is funding.

In June 2019, the U.S Government announced that they would establish a process for the U.S. Department of Labor, to advance the development of high-quality, industry-recognized apprenticeship programs (IRAPs), totalling $183.8 million of investment to support the development and expansion of apprenticeships for educational institutions. But these IRAPs are not as clear or as popular as the California registered apprenticeship which is “industry driven and recognised” as The California Department of Industrial Relations commented in their quarterly report.

The UK’s apprenticeship levy provides a national mechanism for access to funding, it a continuous budget, which is centrally controlled and employer funded. Despite a large number of state and national funding grants in the US, the only source of funding is usually a fixed term and lacks the roll on roll off access which the UK system takes for granted.

This year’s UK mission had a focus on two main industrial sectors, Cyber Digital and Healthcare, with visits to two community colleges, College of the Canyons and East Los Angeles College (Elac) which saw and Introduction from AELP’s Mark Dawe and presentations from NOCN’s Deputy Managing Director Jan Richardson-Wilde (@Jrichardsonwil1) on how NOCN supports the development of global skills.

Presentations also included Susanna Lawson (@SusannaOneFile) from Onefile on the use of digital e-portfolios to support the learning and assessment, Lucy Dunleavy (@LearningBoxed) on how been a positive disrupter in the education space can re-set the relationships which apprentices have with English and Maths learning. Also delivering a presentation at ELAC were colleagues from Health Education England’s Jane Hadfield (@HadfieldJane) Lucy Hunte (@HunteLucy) who explained the experiences and knowledge gained while reforming the approach NHS England take to apprenticeship delivery, as the UK’s largest single Apprenticeship Levy contributor, delivering both Clinical and non-clinical learning pathways.

Friday evening saw the delegation attend the LA Dodgers Base Ball game, with the trade mission even getting a mention on the score board.

You stay classy, San Diego

Saturday saw the delegation begin their journey south to San Diego, myself and Jan Richardson-Wilde decided to take the Amtrack – the US nationalised rail service operator. Railways in the US don’t have the appeal that they once did, with more people either taking a 1.5-hour flight or driving the 3-hour interstate down to the Southern part of California. However, we had both seen the TV programme where the previous mentioned Michael Portillo had taken the Pacific Surfliner from LA to San Diego, which proved to be an awesome decision. The route snakes out of LA, before following the SoCal coast, at times feet away from the water’s edge.

San Diego, is an amazing place, a place which would host the UK delegation for four days, as part of the California Apprenticeship Lab and Advisory Committee on Apprenticeships, a full conference with panel discussions from a number of stakeholders in the state’s delivery system.

The conference included the opportunity to attend four breakout workshops to further improve our knowledge and awareness of the California system, it’s challenges and experiences. These workshops included; The Pre- Apprenticeship Model (similar to UK Traineeships), New and Innovate Apprenticeships, Apprenticeships 101 and Serving and Recruiting Special Populations. I picked the latter.

Serving and Recruiting Special Populations, focused on the worked carried out to support ex-offenders and addicts by an organisation called Kitchens for Good, who try to end the cycle of food waste, poverty, and hunger through workforce training, healthy food production and social enterprise. The workshop was part presented by two ex-felons who shared their inspiring stories of repeat offending, jail and drug addiction and how they have gain meaningful employment in the hospitality sector, through completing an apprenticeship.

The final day of the conference, saw a sector forum style approach to the agenda, with each sector debating and discussion elements, challenges and experiences of their programmes. The conference also saw addresses from our hosts, The California Labor and workforce Development agency and the Department for Industrial Relations, Division of Apprenticeship Standards. Chief Eric Rood explained the recent advances and opportunities as well as presenting elements of the quarterly report to the conference, discussing apprenticeship participation and outcomes.

We ended the meeting with thanks and goodbyes to other members of the Apprenticeship workforce office Kelly Mackey and Carrie Stanonis, who during the entire week, were most welcoming and gracious hosts.

UK Return

“The UK has had its hottest July day on record - with temperatures reaching 38.1C”

We left San Diego on Tuesday by rail, retracing our journey back along the Pacific coast to LA. After our night halt in Westwood LA, we made our 15:30, 10-hour flight on time back to Heathrow. Only to encounter the UK’s hottest July day on record and for me absolute train chaos at King’s Cross. After cancellations and three train changes, I made it aboard the 14:40 heading north, on one of the last trains to run on the North East line that day, an achievement despite the trains lack of air-conditioning.

Home at last in Doncaster. Travels done, for now…

“Everything, it said, was against the travellers, every obstacle imposed alike by man and by nature. A miraculous agreement of the times of departure and arrival, which was impossible, was absolutely necessary to his success” ― Jules Verne, Around the World in 80 Days.

Thomas Burton, Director of Apprenticeships, NOCN

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