It’s a big ask, but one that is as exciting as it is challenging for the Further Education sector.
Three million additional apprenticeships by 2020 – and to a higher level than now – is the new government’s demand, as outlined in last week’s Queen’s Speech.
For a nation that has struggled to pick up the apprenticeship baton, it is no small task.
While hope and expectation are there, change in many areas is needed. Key is for apprenticeships to be of a high standard, for employers to be able and willing to make them available – and for all organisations involved in the process to work together.
Emphasis must be that the end product is the creation and security of jobs. What cannot be overlooked is that an apprenticeship is a programme of learning with a job attached, not just a course of learning.
Devolution of provision is needed, with Local Enterprise Partnerships – made up of employers, local authorities, FE providers and others – working closely to identify and create high quality opportunities and satisfying a strong push for local control of skills.
In many schools and colleges re-evaluation of curriculums and mindset is required. Some will be forced to change their culture and move from non apprenticeship-based provision. Colleges that don’t move with the times risk merger with others.
Schools, too, must change, as many still see apprenticeships as the poor partner to academic qualifications. They must examine their education frameworks to ensure they meet the requirements of their local labour market.
For employers, it promises an end to a frustrated craving for young people with better technical skills to work in their businesses. An underlying pledge is that the skills base at which apprenticeships are delivered will increasingly rise from Level 2 to Level 3 and above.
But to support this there must also be better progression routes into apprenticeships. That means the quality of pre-apprenticeships and traineeships must improve, and they must become wider in scope. This will eradicate the problem of employers taking on staff who are unready for the workplace.
Training providers like Learning Curve Group will have to work ever more closely with other education organisations to produce programmes and materials that are specifically for apprenticeships and pre-apprenticeships. We must all adapt accordingly.
None of this will come cheap. It costs Britain around £800m a year to fund 500,000 apprenticeships – creating the extra places will require still more. It must be found to bring about the all important mix of quantity and quality that will prove the benchmark of this policy.
If that is achieved, we may finally have the apprenticeship framework that brings the breadth of skills excellence so long demanded. http://www.learningcurvegroup.co.uk/