The purpose and perception of apprenticeships have changed dramatically in recent years. What was once the preserve of school-leavers looking for technical training in industries such as construction and manufacturing has now morphed into training programmes that are applicable to all levels and sectors.
For employers, apprenticeships are an excellent way of using government funding to upskill your employees through internationally recognised qualifications.
Employers that engage in the apprenticeship system by providing training places to aspiring apprentices report significant rewards and cite the benefits of apprenticeships to ensure skilled workers in the future.
The value of a high-quality apprenticeship is combining and contextualising the learning that takes place away from the workplace with the learning that happens in the workplace – this brings tangible benefits to both the employer and apprentice. To make this happen, both the employer and the apprentice must regard 100% of the apprentice’s time (80% on-the-job, 20% off-the-job) as an apprenticeship, with the employer being truly engaged with the education and training they offer on-the-job and finding benefit and relevance to the 20% of the time that the apprentice is off-the-job.
The quality of an apprenticeship is determined by the quality of education and training that the apprentice receives. Still, discussion tends to focus on the regulatory and funding environment for apprenticeships rather than the quality of training provided.
The concept of apprenticeships being only for youngsters of a less academic bent, rather than those moving on to higher education or university, taking their first step into employment, needs to be updated. Youngsters looking for careers in sectors such as child care, beauty, or car repair are only part of the picture. Degree apprenticeships in accountancy, law, engineering, automation and AI are becoming increasingly popular.
However, for any of these programmes to meet employer requirements, communication between the training provider, college or university, and the employer is paramount in ensuring the young person is equipped with the skills the employer needs.
IfATE, the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education, agrees that employers must play a central role in identifying skills needs and developing qualifications. They call for awarding bodies to work collaboratively with employers throughout all stages of the qualification development cycle to ensure technical qualifications reflect employer requirements.
They say that awarding bodies should talk to employers regularly to identify industry/ sector needs. To maximise the effectiveness of these contacts, conversations should be informed by current evidence. Awarding bodies should gather available information and data to inform engagement with the relevant sector. This helps ensure that any qualifications they develop represent the needs of different employers, occupational roles and specialisms.