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Putting quality at the heart of apprenticeships

Source: PSE Dec/Jan 2019

Keith Smith, director of apprenticeships at the Education and Skills Funding Agency, outlines the key initiatives currently taking place to drive the growth and quality of apprenticeships.

An apprenticeship can be life-changing, with higher wages and better job prospects. It offers a unique opportunity for people of all ages and backgrounds to earn while they learn, and get the high-quality skills and training to land a job in a wide range of exciting areas like aerospace engineering, law, and cyber security.

We also know that apprentices can expect to receive around 700 training hours on average, up from 560 hours the year before. They make financial sense, too: training makes people more productive and they will end up earning more. On average, a Level 2 apprenticeship boosts a person’s earnings by 11%, and for a Level 3 apprenticeship itʼs 16%.

The latest figures show that more and more people are starting on our new high-quality apprenticeships, known as ‘apprenticeship standards.’ This is good news and really highlights how employers up and down the country are embracing the huge benefits apprentices are bringing to their business.

Equally, figures on progress towards the public-sector apprenticeship target show the step-change apprenticeships are bringing to public services. With exciting apprenticeship opportunities available, from nursing to policing and firefighting, there is something for everyone.

The National Apprenticeship Service (NAS) provides advice and guidance to support employers across England to set up high-quality apprenticeship programmes. It can be a little daunting when recruiting apprentices for the first time, so the NAS will help guide employers through the process. It also helps support employers who are looking to expand their apprenticeship programmes. This is part of making sure that apprenticeships continue to be high quality so our workforce is fit for the future.

To support our drive to grow the number of high-quality apprenticeships and make sure itʼs easier for individuals and employers to access them, we have launched several initiatives. Our ‘5 Cities Project,’ for example, aims to boost diversity in apprenticeships. Launched earlier this year, the scheme has seen the mayors of Greater Manchester, London, Bristol, Birmingham, and Leicester all pledging to work with us, employers, and local partners to promote apprenticeships among underrepresented groups, including Black, Asian and minority ethnic and those from disadvantaged backgrounds.

We also recently launched our ‘Opportunities through Apprenticeships’ programme.Working with local authorities in Portsmouth, Nottingham, South Tyneside, and Torbay, we support social mobility by creating opportunities for more people from disadvantaged communities to undertake higher-value apprenticeships. It will encourage more apprenticeships to be created in sectors such as engineering, manufacturing, construction, and ICT, and aims to ensure better outcomes for individuals, employers, and local communities.

We have also worked closely with the Office for Students, the Higher Education regulator, to support the development and take-up of degree apprenticeships through the Degree Apprenticeship Development Fund. You can now gain a degree while getting a salary, training on the job, and having your tuition fees paid for you. A huge number of universities are now on-board and able to offer degree apprenticeships, including many Russell Group universities.

Finally, there are a range of measures in place to help lower the barriers people from disadvantaged backgrounds face in starting an apprenticeship. This includes providing extra funding for training providers and bursaries of £1,000 paid directly to apprentices who are leaving care, as well as working with the Department for Transport to monitor the costs paid for transport by young people.

By working with employers, training providers and partners across the country, we are continuing to ensure that apprenticeships are high in quality and that they are available to everyone – whether that is someone with children returning to part-time work and needing to re-train, a young person who doesn’t want to do an academic course, or those who want different options for a career path.


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