Get real on Apprenticeships

Get real about Apprenticeships

A few people have been in touch over the past couple of weeks to ask me what is going on in the world of skills.

Good question! I’ve been asking myself the same question for some time now!

When I left the Sector Skills Council I wrote an article that was shared across the press where I pleaded with government to do a few things. Primary amongst my calls were:

  • Please don’t forget the Logistics Sector
  • Don’t turn Apprenticeships into a political football.

I’m afraid you could make an argument that the past two weeks have been evidence that my calls were roundly ignored.

Apprenticeship Levy and the Trailblazer Framework

This week we see a reminder of National Apprenticeship Week 2016 #NAW2016 that will run from 14-18 March 2016 set amid the current media narrative on the importance of Apprenticeships for the growth of the economy. I balance this with the announcement of the Apprenticeship levy coincided almost exactly with the rejection of the trailblazer framework, something studiously created by employers and real experts from the sector.

In the past I have been accused of failing to support Apprenticeships to the extent that a leader of a Sector Skills Council should have. Maybe those criticisms were right. But let me explain.

I believe in training…

  • Evidence shows it makes you a happier and healthier individual.
  • Data clearly shows it makes you a richer and more productive employer.
  • Skills make for a better economy, which in turn should have an effect on society.

I believe that vocational training is worth just as much as academic stuff. For too long we have thought highly of one and badly of the other. That makes no sense, either emotionally or after a review of the evidence.

Does this mean that I inevitably love Apprenticeships?

Well, I adore the principle. Learning on the job. Learning whilst employed. It’s clearly the best way. I mean it’s so obvious that I really don’t know how anyone can disagree.

However. I’ve never been completely convinced that the Apprenticeship offer has been right.

As well as believing in skills, to my core I believe that employers know their market better than civil servants or quango staffers. Anyone who has ever heard me speak will know that I consistently bang on about an ‘employer-led’ skills system. Give employers the power and they will frame useful, impactful solutions.

Are Apprenticeship rules getting in the way? Is it all too much hassle?

Too often, rules about Apprenticeship funding have got in the way. Whether it be about hours, or units, or core competencies. It’s been a mess. A system has been created which has seemingly forgotten the whole point, namely to help people become amazing at their jobs.

I talk to employers – and it’s true they are usually SMEs – and hear hellish stories about their Apprenticeship experience. The hassle factor has been too dramatic and too frequently heard. They want bite sized units just as much as big qualifications. Surely employers know best what they need now as well as in the future?

Training providers are already returning funding because they can’t fill their Apprenticeship quotas. What does this tell you? Can you predict will happen to government’s decree that we’re going to have 3 million more Apprenticeships?

The rejection of the recent trailblazer frameworks flies in the face of the above.

The budget clearly showed that we are seriously pushing for an increase in productivity (how else are you going to pay the living wage without inflationary pressures?). Skills brings productivity enhancements. Employers are going to have to pay more – so they will need a more productive workforce.

So let’s get real about skills. And let’s support those who have the expertise and the drive to lead the agenda

Dr Ross Moloney
Managing Director
FireDog Research

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