Reflection on Apprenticeship Week

Anthony Haynes writes: In the UK, 11-15 March was National Apprenticeship Week (NAW). As part of the week I attended — along with FJWilson’s CEO, Fiona Wilson — the Voice of Apprenticeships conference in London.

With a packed programme of presentations and a good number of exhibitors and delegates, one could hardly fail to learn from the event or to gain a more rounded understanding of the subject. Fiona and I certainly came out of the conference feeling our knowledge had been enhanced.

From such a full programme I won’t try to distil any summary of the conference as a whole. Rather I will pick out a few of themes that stood out most to me. Here goes:

1. It’s helpful to look at apprenticeships in the England in relation to apprenticeships elsewhere. An article in FE Week‘s ‘Apprenticeship Week 2013’ supplement demonstrated that apprenticeships had achieved a markedly higher take-up in countries such as German, Switzerland, and Denmark than in England.

2. We need to see apprenticeships in the round. They now spread far behind the traditional heartland of skilled manual trades. Apprenticeships now extend into professional occupational areas such as accountancy and law*. Not only may apprenticeships offer an alternative to a degree**: higher apprenticeships may offer an attractive alternative to postgraduate study.

3. Colleges and training providers need to continue to strive to engage employers. Providers need to avoid simply pushing information out and instead engage in properly two-way dialogue.

4. In particular: the ‘worthiness’ paradigm — believing that apprenticeships are a ‘Good Thing’ and that employers therefore really ought to oblige — doesn’t cut the mustard. Providers need to identify and explain the benefits of apprenticeships to employers: the key question for an employer is, how can apprenticeships genuinely add value?

5. To extend the reach of apprenticeships, a higher take-up amongst small and medium enterprises (SMEs), including micro-enterprises, is required. Large corporations have a role to play here: SMEs in their supply chains can learn about apprenticeships from their clients.

And why were we there? Not so much because we were interested in taking on apprenticeships at present (though there are apprenticeships in recruitment, so never say never): rather, it was because our clients — actual and prospective — include providers and employers.

We want to ensure we understand their world — it’s as simple as that.

If you attended the conference — or other NAW events — do let me know what your take-home messages were…


*For example, one of the exhibitors was Higher Apprenticeships in Legal Services.

** Another of the exhibitors was the well-named organisation, notgoingtouni.

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