From education to employment

Stephen Gardner, Director of Apprenticeships LSC writes his Exclusive Monthly Column for FE News

Stephen Gardner, Director of Apprenticeships at the Learning and Skills Council writes exclusively for FE News, to encourage further education colleges to ensure individuals learn the skills employers need.

The Leitch Review of UK skills published in December, highlighted a need to increase skills attainment at all levels, and recommended the number of apprentices in the UK should be doubled to 500,000 by 2020.

We at the Learning and Skills Council (LSC) welcome Lord Leitch’s vision for world-class skills and call on further education colleges to consider delivering vocational courses as Programme-led Apprenticeships, and focus on ensuring young people learn the skills employers want and need.

Like Apprenticeships and Advanced Apprenticeships, Programme-led Apprenticeships enable individuals to develop their vocational skills and employability through periods of off the job training in a provider’s training centre, or by gaining experience of work in a non-employed placement, in effect “earning while they learn”. They offer individuals who haven”t yet found an employer placement, the chance to train and gain skills before they begin work.

Completing a Programme-led Apprenticeship provides a wide range of benefits for both individuals and employers. Because the process of learning is focused and relevant, it is possible to complete a framework in a shorter period of time and ensures the apprentice has an impact on an employer’s business from day one.

Secondly, the opportunity to start an Apprenticeship without waiting to find an employer, and follow a structured programme, is of real benefit to learners who may struggle with a less disciplined work-based approach from the start.

From an employer’s point of view, Programme-led Apprenticeships are a practical way to address skills shortages, representing higher efficiency and better value for money over the long term. Employers gain from being able to recruit from a pool of partly trained apprentices, who are likely to be more confident, better motivated and committed to succeed, having accumulated skills before starting work.

Our vision for Programme-led Apprenticeships is that by 2010, all employment-focused and non-employed Apprenticeships are delivered through these programmes, ensuring its relevance to business” needs and preparing apprentices for future skilled jobs. To make this happen, colleges need to continue building relationships with local employers to establish their skills needs, and match college based learning with local business requirements.

It is in the interests of individuals and employers, and indeed the country, that those who seek to follow a vocational qualification through the further education route, are able to choose an option that helps deliver the skills that employers need. The true measure of success for an individual who goes to college to do a Programme-led Apprenticeship is not only achieving a qualification, it’s about achieving a job.

Stephen Gardner, Director of Apprenticeships at the Learning and Skills Council

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