From education to employment

Why apprenticeships are vital for a regional skills system that puts employers first

Grant Glendinning, Executive Principal, North NCG

As national college group NCG (@NCG_Official) celebrates #NationalApprenticeshipWeek 2022, Executive Principal North Grant Glendinning reflects on progress and the future of apprenticeships:

The past two years were a huge jolt to the system of apprenticeships. It was a jolt to the entire education sector and we are still feeling the effects of that, but as entire industries like leisure and hospitality closed down, and others moved to home working and learning, it wasn’t really a surprise to see lower apprenticeship numbers than usual, but it was still worrying.

It’s really encouraging to see that those numbers have risen back to pre-pandemic levels and there are likely a number of reasons for the uptake; a new enthusiasm for being in the workplace rather than at home; people both young and old losing their jobs and looking to retrain; businesses now feeling more confident to recruit and recognising the importance of a skilled workforce.

Whatever the reasons, I’m glad that apprenticeships remain an integral part of education and skills training. They are the most effective way to train skilled and well-rounded professionals whilst providing employers with benefits that range from dedicated training support to gaining and training a highly motivated employee with skills specific to their organisation.

Despite the uncertainty and the disruption of the pandemic, there has actually been significant progress made in terms of the future of apprenticeships and the role they play in skills training – or at least progress on paper.

It’s now just over a year since Skills for Jobs White Paper was released, placing great importance on putting employers at the heart of technical training and the Skills Bill currently working its way through parliament proposes a future in which regions will have much greater control over skills planning. That is a point echoed and underlined in the hot-off-the-press Levelling Up White Paper, with a promise of targets on apprenticeship starts and achievements.

The direction of travel for skills places greater emphasis and value on high quality apprenticeships, delivered in collaboration with employers for the benefit of local economies. NCG’s role (through our seven colleges nationwide) is to develop a workforce that is skilled, fit for purpose and in a position to drive forward our regions and support our local economies to thrive, whether that is by aligning our curriculum with regional priorities, driving the development of our curriculum in collaboration with employers, or by supporting the development of a local, skilled workforce through apprenticeships.

Here at NCG, apprenticeships are an essential springboard to successful careers for over 2,000 young people across our national network of colleges. Ensuring that talented and enthusiastic people are placed on the right apprenticeship standard, receive the highest standard of training, and are working within a great employer environment, is giving them the best possible start to a fantastic career.

This National Apprenticeship Week we’re celebrating the individual stories and successes of our apprentices and their employers, but we’re also providing them with a platform to train for excellence through our annual NCG Skills competition.

NCG Skills was an initiative born during lockdown, a way to ensure our apprentices weren’t missing out on engagement with employers and opportunities to strengthen their hands-on experience. Skills competitions are a fantastic opportunity for learners to share skills and knowledge and inspire each other to be the best they can be. We wanted to utilise our national group of colleges and ensure that our learners were benefitting from our unique structure, putting enterprise, engagement and employability at the centre of the learning experience for all of our students developing their vocational skills.

We received funding from Crescent Publishing Consortium to help us get this off the ground initially last year and were supported by employer partners who acted as judges and sponsors, such as NOCN and VTCT. We’re lucky to not only have their continued support for a second year, but have grown that support and have even more employers involved as judges, which really demonstrates the value of the event for our apprentices and their future employability.

NCG Skills is essentially our own regional heats for World Skills and we support the winners and the stand-out successes from the competition to apply for and progress through the World Skills application, with the aim of supporting as many skilled apprentices as possible and providing them with the opportunity to take part.

This development of our apprentices in collaboration with the employers supporting the event really embodies NCG’s ambition to become a leading apprenticeship provider in all of our college locations and increase the number of high-quality apprenticeships we offer at all levels.  They are integral to the future success of our learners, our partners and our local communities and essentially, will help NCG to achieve our vision of enabling social mobility and economic prosperity through exceptional education.

Grant Glendinning, Executive Principal, North NCG

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