Apprenticeships are at the forefront of the Government’s declared policy for improving the nation’s skills. In the first of a two part series, FE News reporter Jessica Brammar spoke to Stephen Gardner, the Director of Apprenticeships at the Learning and Skills Council (LSC).
With the recent news that the Government’s target of 175,000 young people entering Apprenticeships has been achieved, Stephen Gardner has a lot to be proud of. I asked him what was behind this success. “In part our marketing campaign,” he says, “in part the fact that a lot of young people see the advantages of learning a skill whilst earning a wage, and developing a career with prospects.”
However, Gardner admits that, despite the success so far, there is still a lot to be done. Partly, he says, change needs to come about at secondary level, where “we need better advice and guidance in schools.” “There are too few guidance networks,” he believes, that understand Apprenticeships, and can explain to young people that they can train whilst being paid and employed. Furthermore, he adds, “we could always do with more employers who are committed to providing apprenticeships.”
A National Application
To ensure that Apprenticeships continue to be accessible to young people, Gardner tells me that the LSC are “looking at a national application system”, like the University and Colleges Admissions System (UCAS), in order to make it easier for people to apply. However, he acknowledged the fundamental differences between the higher education and work-based learning sectors, such as the fact that, whilst many young people travel away from home to go to university, they tend to apply for Apprenticeships in their local area. Therefore, he says, it is important “to consider carefully what’s the best way.”
Gardner acknowledges that rates of application and completion vary from sector to sector. Four areas have been identified – healthcare, childcare, construction, and hospitality – in which the rates of completion are particularly low. Furthermore, “Sector skills councils are looking into areas such as creative industries and public services”, where the Apprenticeship programme could be expanded. The IT sector, he says, is the “most successful in terms of rates.”
I asked how he thinks more employers can be encouraged to make use of the Apprenticeship programme. “We need to get the message across,” Gardner says, that Apprenticeships are “not about training for the good of the country, but aiding bottom line business performance.” Apprentices can provide businesses with dedicated and highly-trained staff. Indeed, he tells me that “evidence shows that apprentices stay longer with the people who train them,” and are also thought to be more productive.
Read Part 2 of Jessica Brammar’s interview right here at FE News!
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