National Apprenticeship Week is themed, for a second year, Build the Future. How do you think apprenticeships are integral to this theme?
Many UK employers are struggling to fill employment gaps. This is slowing productivity and reducing the capabilities of businesses due to the lack of work-ready skills. Apprenticeships are an important and useful tool that can plug that talent shortage. Apprenticeships allow businesses to train staff with the exact capabilities they need for that profession allowing them to fill those employment gaps with the exact skill sets that are so desperately needed.
But importantly, apprenticeships are an extremely beneficial learning platform for learners of all ages and backgrounds, providing a learning structure and valuable work experience that ensures added value to all parties involved. Further business investment into apprenticeships is going to play an integral part in helping the UK economy to recover following the pandemic but also drive growth into the economy and further increase productivity.
The UK government recognises the benefit it is adding to the UK economy and many young people are often moving away from traditional higher education paths such as university. The government is continuing to invest in apprenticeship schemes that not only allow people to jump straight into a career path but also allow those who are already in established career paths to expand their skill sets to the ever-changing needs of organisations and allow them to build on their abilities. The great thing about apprenticeships is the possibility of earning while you learn, eliminating our reduction in work force capacity while many are on training courses. The achievement of a recognised accreditation at the end of the apprenticeships empowers learners to feel validated on the hard work that has gone into completing the programme.
Continued investment in apprenticeships solves skills challenges in the short-term and future proofs against the possibility of a skills shortage in the future.
Given the need for new skills since the pandemic, how are apprenticeship schemes changing to fit into a new type of work environment and are the demands from employers changing too?
We are seeing universities relying on legacy and reputation to entice cohorts of learners despite outdated learning practices that aren’t aligned with current employer demands. Apprenticeships are developed with a future-proof mindset, taking current business challenges into the learning process, they are adaptive by design and as such, appropriately meet the needs of agile businesses.
Equipping our talent with the skills needed to succeed within a business has now become a responsibility weighing heavier on the shoulders of private sector organisations, than further learning institutions. Businesses have been forced to adapt to rapid shifts in market trends over the past year. What was true at the start of 2019 is invariably in need of re-assessment now. Some businesses have been working hard to prepare for this future with schemes set up that are owned and run with remarkable efficiency – but the playing board is not level. Others have understandably been more focused on survival. It’s in these instances that a specialist apprenticeship programme can address the immediately shifting needs.
Empower learners by giving them a freedom to learn at a pace and time to suit their day
Research is indicating that jobs are changing dramatically as the speed of change accelerates how are apprenticeship providers planning for this scenario?
Working closely with businesses allows providers to stay ahead of these changes, regularly auditing programmes to ensure they stay relevant. Ensuring that value is added to both the learner and the business is crucial to providing both with the most precise training. As a learning partners, providers can test and adjust rapidly and robustly to shifting patterns in the marketplace. For example, as businesses move to a more hybrid and somewhat faster pace of work, providers empower learners by giving them a freedom to learn at a pace and time to suit their day.
Given this speed of change and the unknowns that we face in our working lives, should apprentices be encouraged to learn broader skills like problem-solving, creative thinking and resilience to prepare them for a working life where they may have multiple changes in career /working direction?
The type of skills required by a modern business are various and specific. An apprenticeship facilitates an environment in which soft skills such as creative thinking can be developed through collaboration and practical experience, whilst covering required ground on more foundational skills commonly associated with a traditional learning pathway. We know this because our programmes are developed in concert with the requirements of modern business leadership. Ultimately, whether an employee is a long-service staff member who has demonstrated their adaptability, or a new joiner, the need for a holistic learning investment that prepares us for uncertainty seems (especially in such a volatile environment) to be the most important preparation we can make.