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Informing the Apprenticeship Programme

David Way, CEO, National Apprenticeship Service discusses the results of the Apprenticeship Learner’s Survey and explains how the findings are informing the continuing development of the Apprenticeship Programme.

Over the past year, a lot has been reported about the quality of Apprenticeships.  The most important perspective is that of the employer and the apprentice.  We now have that presented clearly and positively.

This month saw the publication of the Apprentice Learner Survey and it provides fresh evidence of the real value of Apprenticeships.  This information is enhanced by the Employer Survey which also showed high satisfaction rates for the Apprenticeship programme amongst employers.  I wanted to highlight the results of both surveys as the findings will inform all of the sector’s work to raise standards in Apprenticeships.

When I took over the role of Chief Executive of the NAS I said that the commitment to a high quality agenda will be one of my top priorities.  This was probably no surprise to anyone.  The need to achieve high quality experiences for apprentices and employers is a cause that unites and motivates all of us within the FE sector.   It is therefore particularly pleasing to see the high levels of satisfaction amongst employers and apprentices in these surveys.  The results will allow us to focus on ensuring that all Apprenticeships offer a good experience as well as encouraging more young people and employers of all sizes and sectors to engage with Apprenticeship programmes.

The Apprentice Learner Survey, in which 5,000 apprentices took part, confirmed that satisfaction amongst apprentices is high.  Almost nine in ten apprentices (89%) were satisfied with their Apprenticeship.  This figure rose to 92% amongst those people who had completed their Apprenticeship.  The survey also highlighted how Apprenticeships enable people to make progress at work.  One third of individuals (32%) who had finished their Apprenticeship had received a promotion and of those in work, three quarters reported taking on more responsibility.

When reading the report, I reflected on my own experience of employing Apprentices in the NAS and how we try to give them all something special at the start of their working lives.  Not everyone can be as successful as former apprentices such as WorldSkills London 2011 Gold Medallist Shane Trevitt.  Shane, who won Gold in the Plumbing and Heating Competition at WorldSkills London 2011, completed his Apprenticeship with building services and engineering firm NG Bailey after studying at Leeds College of Building.  In his current supervisory role at NG Bailey, Shane says his Apprenticeship has allowed him to build up knowledge of the practical workings of a building site which has allowed him to progress in his career.   Shane is now studying for an HND in Building Services and once he has completed that he wants to go on to complete a degree in engineering and a Masters in Management.

The growing number of apprentice alumni is helping to convince more young people and their parents that Apprenticeships offer a great routeway to high quality jobs.

The Employer Survey, in which 4,000 employers were interviewed, further highlighted the high satisfaction levels relating to Apprenticeships.  85% of those employers interviewed were satisfied (with 66% being very satisfied) with the quality of training provided by their provider.  What was also very pleasing was that the survey confirmed that nearly half of the employers, 47%, had recommended Apprenticeships to other employers.  I met an engineering employer recently who still regrets failing to recruit his usual apprentice intake ten years ago.  He can see the gap in his senior cadre and links this to two years when he did not recruit apprentices.

NAS staff focus their efforts on supporting new employers who want to offer new Apprenticeships to young people aged 16-24.  The Apprenticeship Grant for Employers, known as Age 16-24, provides financial aid to the value of £1500 to employers with less than 250 employees and who have not taken on an apprentice since April 2009.  All our evidence suggests that employers who take on Apprentices for the first time subsequently look to repeat the experience.  So we are hoping that the incentive scheme will permanently change recruitment practice for many employers.

The vast majority of Apprenticeships are of excellent quality and most training providers and colleges are working hard to raise standards and expand programmes into new sectors and at the equivalent of degree level.  We are in the process of reviewing applications for the second round of Higher Apprenticeship funding and we have been impressed with the high quality submissions.  It is clear that that the FE Sector and industry really understand and are committed to developing Higher Apprenticeships as a pathway to progression and developing a competitive skill base.  The growing number of higher opportunities is exciting many new blue chip companies who are opening up their senior recruitment routes to apprentices as well as to their traditional graduates.

We want to make sure that quality runs through every Apprenticeship and the action we are taking to raise standards continues apace.  We will shortly publish our statement on Apprenticeship Quality which will provide a clear definition of the Apprenticeships we will fund.  These are the ones that young people and business need and deserve.  This statement sets out the expectations for Apprenticeship standards and aims to inform best practise for employers and providers in the design and delivery of Apprenticeships.

We are committed to working with the sector and our partners and stakeholders to continue raising standards and quality.  We want to ensure that all Apprenticeships offer an excellent experience and the gold standard of vocational training.

David Way is chief executive of the National Apprenticeship Service

For more information on the AGE 16 to 24 Grant visit www.apprenticeships.org.uk or call 08000 150 600.

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