From education to employment

Preparing young people for apprenticeships – Addressing apprenticeship drop-out with pre-apprenticeship training

Fleur Sexton

Fleur Sexton, Deputy Lieutenant West Midlands and Managing Director of PET-Xi – one of the most hard-hitting and dynamic training providers in the UK with a reputation for success with the hardest to reach – discusses improving Qualification Achievement Rates (QAR) by providing pre-apprenticeship training.

The opportunities apprenticeships provide continue to grow and diversify. As technology drives rapid change to traditional roles in manufacturing, and with a record number of vacancies in the hospitality and care sector, we need to focus on providing the best training for our young people. 

Apprenticeships no longer equate to lower paid trainees with limited skills being drafted into the job market. But misconceptions still remain, especially those surrounding the status of apprenticeships compared to other avenues of learning. Many employers are unaware that apprenticeships offer a continuing path for learning and upskilling employees, with the highest Level 7 qualification, equivalent to a Master’s Degree.

Although the latest Government figures revealed an overall drop of 6.1% in apprenticeship starts for the 2022/23 academic year; the statistics revealed an increase in starts at advanced level (41.8%) and higher level apprenticeships, 34.4% – a 10% increase on last year.

So how do we make apprenticeships more desirable? Providing support by ensuring apprentices’ pay is equivalent to the National Living Wage would go some way to encourage uptake. We need to ensure high quality programmes which identify learners’ strengths and challenges and offer support, and that the curriculum and skills learned are relevant to the candidate and their future career.

Trailblazer groups made up of employers and training providers, are responsible for co-developing apprenticeship occupational standards according to employers’ needs. This provides a key component for a successful apprenticeship – training for a job and an assured position or learning new skills for their present role. Designing a course by first considering the skills required, is far more logical than completing a general apprenticeship and then requiring more training for a particular position.

Over half of apprenticeship starts drop-out before they complete. In 2020/21 the average achievement rate across all intermediate, advanced and higher levels was 57.7%. One of the reasons for this is that young people are unprepared, especially those who’s final years in school were during the pandemic. After 18 months of Covid ‘isolation’, learning online with no opportunity for practicals or work experience, they lack the confidence, resilience and soft skills essential for a work environment. Embarking on an apprenticeship that may last up to four years can be a daunting prospect, especially if you are unsure.

With a pre-apprenticeship programme as part of a Trailblazer package, young people can dip their toe in before diving headfirst into a career which they may find they are unsuited to. High quality, targeted pre-apprenticeship programmes can help overcome barriers to learning, build confidence, resilience and communication skills and give the young person experience in specific job roles, and a ‘taster’ of what life would be like in that career. Whether that’s a 6-week chef course, with kitchen experience along with learning about food allergens and sustainable work practices, or hospitality management, including financial management and budgeting – training is tailor-made to reflect the realities of the job with learners identified and prepared.

Devolution also has a crucial role. Local authorities are better equipped than central government to identify the needs of local employers and create greater opportunities. By providing pre-apprenticeships, apprenticeships and training initiatives relevant for young people and responding to the needs of their communities, we can level-up through education to create a fairer more equitable society.

Related Articles