Apprenticeships require leadership: Julie Lloyd reports from Apps4England

julieJulie Lloyd writes: With numbers entering apprenticeships down and national apprenticeship week 5-9 March fast approaching, it seems timely to consider Anne Milton’s questions posed at the Apps4England conference 25 January.

How to position the apprenticeship sector for 10-20 years from now?  And how do I respond to her rallying call: “we need to change the perceptions of students, schools, training providers, parents and employers”?

I’m a parent and work within the education sector in recruitment and ready to do my bit — but how?

As with any big change, there’s divided opinion and I’ve heard equal numbers of inspiring and cautionary tales about the levy, end point assessments, 20% off-the-job training and how to engage with employers.

What does seem to unite everyone is the consensus that apprenticeships should provide young people with knowledge, skills and behaviours and in so doing offer a great career opportunity. At FJWTS, I support professional bodies and learning providers with their resourcing strategy and hiring managers consistently ask for “candidates with not only the knowledge and skills to do the job but the emotional intelligence”.

There’s much debate around the 20% requirement for off-the-job training and I can’t help thinking that this is the most valuable time of all as it give employers real scope to shape behaviours and prepare their employees for the future demands of the business.

Most employers are passionate about bridging the skills gap because ultimately, they want to stay competitive and increase productivity. We are seeing that clients are increasingly recognising the key to success is investing in recruiting and nurturing employees with emotional intelligence to become future leaders. As advisors, we’re providing more and more psychological assessments and coaching services to help our clients make more informed decisions when shortlisting and recruiting.

Change takes time. We have seen how our coaching and leadership development based on a positive, humanistic, approach can nurture the individual’s strengths to help achieve their goals.  The trick seems to be how to incorporate this into the apprenticeship stage, so that employers can influence behaviours early on, to fit their business ethos and be relevant to their sector.

The quality of apprenticeships evidently depends on the way they are managed. In years to come, surely the best advocates in changing perceptions are hiring managers who have seen first-hand how programmes, such as CMI’s Management and Leadership apprenticeships, are adding value to the workforce.

So I return to the original question: how to do my bit and change perceptions? As a parent I am already an advocate of apprenticeships and work-based training.  Ultimately apprenticeship programmes are only as effective as the leaders managing them and as Anne said “what drives productivity is management”. My conclusion is that I can influence the future landscape for young people through my work, by continuing to support our clients in finding emotionally intelligent, highly skilled and knowledgeable employees — these are the qualities that make good leaders and ultimately good leaders make for good apprenticeships.

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