From education to employment

The next generation of apprenticeship programmes

With the economy in a state of continuing flux and providers also working against a backdrop of shifting legislation, how are we preparing learners for the work place through apprenticeships? What are the skill sets they need to possess to make them attractive to employers and what role will employers play in the development of these qualifications?

The recently published Richards review by eminent entrepreneur and trainer, Doug Richards, highlights the progressive nature that we must all take if the future of our workforce in the UK is to compete with the rest of the world. It is less reflective, more visionary in how apprenticeships will need to work within our changing economy. The government commissioned report set out to ask “What should an apprenticeship be in the future, and how can apprenticeships meet the needs of the changing economy?”

There is a dichotomy between what employers want and how we are training learners

If the general consensus is anything to go by then it appears so. Whilst some in the teaching profession do not see that it is their role to offer these soft skills for working life, does the national curriculum in its current guise allow for the flexible delivery of these skills which could really make a difference in their first job?

Were talking about the skills that all employers, be in small (SME), or larger organisations expect; personal skills, problem solving, team building, creative and lateral thinking, not to mention the application of numeracy skills and literacy. Surely, the majority of SME and micro-businesses that take on a young apprentice value these skills together with ‘attitude’ more so that outright grades. If so, then how do we begin to measure these skills in a way that allows us to decipher an individuals’ competency against those of the role they are applying for or training in?

Traditionally, assessment in apprenticeships has been spread across the duration of the programme. However, according to the review, the application and transfer of these skills into ‘real world’ scenarios together with the assessment of them towards the end of their training, will give a better understanding of their true abilities. The employer and the young apprentice will gain confidence in a framework that supports this process. The outcome will provide a skill set to employers that allows their apprenticeships to work across multiple disciplines, as they will often do in a mirco- and SME businesses. Whilst accounting for a large proportion of the private sector, this is where the greatest impact will be.

It is clear that the next generation of apprenticeship programmes must provide greater flexibility for providers to give a tailored experience dependent on the employers’ requirements and the apprentices’ needs. Richards defines these new qualifications as clear, effective and trusted in nature, leading to overarching competencies that allow for occupational standards to be set for each vocation. Clearly flagged miles stones in the training of young apprentices must give confidence to employers in the competencies they are assessing. Their involvement and commitment to this process needs to be met with government backing of the system which in turn will lead to rigor and transparency in the way these programmes are offered.

Flexible employer led delivery is the way forward

Recognising the need for greater input from employers will improve the relevance of apprenticeships. The transferability of the competencies they develop throughout their career will future-proof these young men and women with relevant skills that they will continue to apply time and again.

Demand led training in the sector is a challenge for any provider in the current climate. Competing in a regional marketplace where other providers are offering lower cost and more flexible training, places a greater emphasis on the alliance that the employer and provider must have. Their understanding of the specific needs of the role, together with that of the apprentice, will be paramount.

Flexible, responsive and robust delivery of these qualifications will ensure that we provide the economy with a new generation of professionals in years to come.

Tim Evans is director of Lean4Learning, the education solutions provider that aims to remove waste and create a continuous improvement culture

Related Articles