#ResultsDay2021 - A version of this article was published last year, during the early stages of the pandemic. While much has changed over the last 12 months, the importance of vocational training remains as important as ever, if not more so as skills shortages across a wide range of sectors become more acute in the UK.
It is an undeniable fact that ongoing training and development throughout people’s working lives will be an essential cornerstone of creating a sustainable economic future in the years ahead. In fact, a report from the World Economic Forum states that by 2025 44% of skills that employees need to perform in their role will change, thanks to the speed of technological advances. That’s a heck of a lot of outdated skills that will require a brush up.
Since 2014/15, apprenticeship starts at level 2 have dropped from just over 298,000 to approximately 143,000 in 2018/19. A ‘shake up’ of sorts may have been required, and the announcement that the Business Administration apprenticeship framework will not be replaced has revived once again the conversation about the future of level 2 apprenticeships. There is a very real risk that we are further reducing the opportunities that level 2 apprenticeships can bring to individuals and employers.
During the election campaign the pledges around Apprenticeships were there for all to see. Now that the campaigns are over and the victors are looking to the future and the defeated licking their wounds, I would like to make a case for an equal focus on Traineeships.Apprenticeships provide great learning and development for those in employment and Traineeships are a perfect opportunity for those seeking a foothold into employment. However, it's a bit like the housing ladder – it's good when you are on it and you keep up your payments, but getting to the point of having a deposit is a real challenge for many. The deposit in the education to employment area is an age old catch 22 – we need people with qualifications and experience but you can't get experience or qualifications without employment.The Traineeship programme has been with us for less than 2 years and there are signs that it may hold some hope of solving this riddle. It is designed for the unemployed and takes in people up to the age of 24. It contains the three essential elements that should provide learners and employers with confidence – maths and English, work preparation training and work experience. The programme is supported by the CBI, the TUC, a number of major companies and many providers are actively promoting and delivering high quality courses.However, all is not quite as rosy as one would like. Take up has not been as successful as we would all have liked and recruitment and retention have proved challenging. The recent evaluation into Traineeships was generally positive from all stakeholders but also identified some key areas where the programme could be improved. These included awareness raising, increased employer engagement in programme design, appropriate financial incentives for Trainees, greater collaboration between agencies and clarity on progression opportunities.For those of you that have long memories these findings are not dissimilar to those that surrounded Apprenticeships some years ago. Substantial time and investment has been made into designing and promoting Apprenticeships so that they are at long last becoming a well-regarded option for both leaners and employers. Traineeships need to be promoted widely and contain hard evidence for the learner and any future employer. This is why I would argue that a final certificate should be issued with a transcript of the trainee's achievements in all aspects. This could include qualifications or units covering vocational and attitudinal learning and which will be valued and recognised by potential employers.The Traineeship programme needs to learn from the Apprenticeship journey and become known as the route from unemployment to opportunity, a journey we should all support.David Phillips is vice president of Pearson Work Based Learning & Colleges
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