Employers get working on apprenticeships

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National Apprenticeship Week, now in its 13th year, will take place from February 3-7. This week-long celebration of apprenticeships across England aims to recognise apprenticeship success across the country

We’re showcasing some of the region’s businesses, companies and colleges of further and higher education which offer apprenticeships in skills as diverse as farriering to space engineering.

According to a report published by the CBI late last year, Education and Learning for the Modern World, more than four in five businesses polled for the report now offer apprenticeship programmes. However, before we celebrate this figure, it should be pointed out that the report only surveyed 208 businesses and trade associations.

Nevertheless, there does seem to be wider acknowledgement that education is becoming a top priority for business, which understands its impact on productivity and living standards.

There is widespread criticism of the apprenticeship levy which the new government must address, and a quarter of companies are reportedly absorbing the levy as a tax on doing business, rather than claiming it. But in the process they miss the opportunity to use it to fund skills training for their workforce.

Speaking as the report was released, Matthew Fell, CBI Chief UK Policy Director, said: “Turning the UK into a nation of lifelong learners will be critical to ensuring our country is well placed to reap the benefits of digital, technology and other changes in the workplace.”

The theme of this year’s National Apprenticeship Week is “Look Beyond” and it will celebrate the diversity and value that apprenticeships bring to employers, apprentices and communities across England.

All the employers we interviewed already recognise the value that apprentices bring to their business, citing in particular their fresh viewpoints and ideas. For many companies, doing what they have always done comes too easily, and a new perspective, however disruptive it might appear, can be a real boost to company owners and senior management courageous enough to listen to ideas offered by enthusiastic young people keen to contribute.

But the number of apprenticeship starts has fallen sharply. Government statistics published at the end of November show a drop of more than 22 per cent since the introduction of the apprenticeship levy in 2017.

Figures show that there have been just 1.9 million apprenticeship starts since May 2015. The government has missed its three million new starts by 2020 pledge.

The gamification of skills and training could inspire more young people

Last November, the UK’s best young apprentices were revealed at WorldSkills UK Live, a set of skills competitions for young people and adults designed and delivered by industry experts.

This gamification of apprenticeships seems a great way to engage with young people and boost the popularity of training.

Last year’s event held in Birmingham attracted more than 80,000 people, according to WorldSkills UK, a partnership between business, education and the government.

The competition runs each year covering more than 70 skills across the UK. Top scorers from across the regional heats and selection events are invited to compete at WorldSkills UK Live National Finals.

Winners at WorldSkills UK, which is the nation’s largest skills, apprenticeships and careers event, then go forward to represent the UK at WorldSkills International, a competition for 72 nations dubbed the ‘skills Olympics’.

Across this region, aeronautical engineering apprentices from QinetiQ, and fl oristry students from Warwickshire College Group, walked away with awards, and are waiting to hear if they will be selected for the squad heading for WorldSkills Shanghai 2021.

Perhaps competitions like this could inspire more people to start apprenticeships.

Let’s celebrate apprenticeships, says the WMG, University of Warwick

By Sue Parr, Director of Apprenticeships WMG, University of Warwick

Discussions about apprenticeships and the apprenticeship levy often seem to be associated with negative comments.

It’s certainly true that many elements of the programme introduced in 2017 are challenging and could be improved, but there are also many more things to celebrate.

When talking to apprentices on our engineering and digital and technology programmes I am struck by their enthusiasm and commitment to programmes that require a challenging combination of full-time work and study.

Most have chosen the apprenticeship route because they like to apply their learning to real work situations and value the chance it gives them to begin their career working alongside experienced professionals and making signifi cant contributions to their employing companies from the moment they start work. Apprenticeships provide a unique and valuable combination of study, real work and the opportunity to develop professional skills.

Companies are now more regularly building apprenticeships into their talent development plans because they value the real enthusiasm and commitment that many apprentices bring to their organisations and the speed with which their become highly competent.

In a world where rapid changes in markets and technology demand responsiveness from companies and different skills from the workforce, reskilling and upskilling existing staff is also vital