Apprenticeships: First choice for a career

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Apprenticeships really are a great way for individuals to progress in work, says Keith Smith, director of the apprenticeships group at the Education & Skills Funding Agency

Apprenticeships are evolving. We are seeing more employers, from wide ranging and new sectors, offering an apprenticeship in more exciting roles than we’ve previously seen. These roles are opening up real job opportunities, with valued technical skills, to anyone aged 16 and over—enhancing career choices and future prospects of individuals in the world of work. These changes are essential to equipping our young people with the skills they need to compete in a modern, higher skilled labour market.

Employers have gone through a period of change, taking a greater role in leading the apprenticeships they need. They are designing apprenticeship standards and they can now train individuals up to degree level with an apprenticeship. All of these changes, are driving up the quality of apprenticeships and, since May 2015, we have seen one million individuals start an apprenticeship. New apprenticeship standards are now available in a broad range of sectors too, from nuclear to fashion, law, banking and defence, and range from a level 3 butcher to a level 7 solicitor. There really is an apprenticeship for everybody.

Apprentices are moulded to give the employer the unique skills they need in their workplace while bringing many of the benefits that apprenticeships offer to their business, including a high level of return on investment. Research tells us that adult apprentices, working at level 3, deliver £28 of economic benefits, respectively, for each pound of investment.

Apprenticeships work for individuals, because no matter who you are, where you are from, or what career you see yourself succeeding in, they can offer you a sound career path while you earn, learn and gain vital work experience.

Apprentices complete their training with highly marketable skills that will make it more likely for them to remain employed. We know apprenticeships also have real returns for individuals, including the prospect of increased earning potential. Research also tells us that an apprentice doing a higher level apprenticeship can earn £150,000 more on average over their lifetime compared with those with a level 3 vocational qualification.

Keith Smith, Apprenticeship Group

Keith Smith, director of the apprenticeships group at the Education & Skills Funding Agency

The opportunity that apprenticeships present are huge, particularly higher and degree apprenticeships that are widening access to professions including nursing, aerospace engineering and software development. Co-created by employers, universities and professional bodies, degree apprenticeships give people an alternative to university, while offering the chance to gain a high-quality degree, earning a salary and getting on-the-job experience.

Offering a number of entry points and many progression opportunities across job roles, these apprenticeships provide the crucial higher level industry-specific skills that are critical for business growth, and provide even more opportunities for individuals to excel in their chosen career.

We are keen to see apprenticeships as the first choice for individuals considering their future career path. To do so, we need to broaden the availability of apprenticeships in existing and new sectors. To help with this, we have set an ambitious public sector target to increase the proportion of apprenticeships opening up new and exciting opportunities serving the public.

Similarly, we have a target for apprenticeship starts by people of black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds—increasing numbers by 20% by 2020. Transport for London (TfL) is already supporting this ambition. Not only is TfL committed to keeping London moving, TfL recognises the need to grow its own talent and, with millions of residents, workers and visitors using its transport system every day, build a workforce that reflects the diverse nature of its customers. As such, apprenticeships have become a significant component of the organisation’s diversity drive and TfL has been undertaking a series of initiatives to encourage people from underrepresented groups into the organisation, with bold ambitions to further address the diversity agenda.

TfL currently has around 400 apprentices working within its organisation and offers more than 25 different apprenticeship programmes, ranging from levels 2 to 6, in areas such as engineering, technology and data, management, professional and commercial services.
We know our sector is behind apprenticeships and we want to see this support continue to flourish.

In 2018, we celebrated our biggest and best National Apprenticeship Week yet, in our 11th year. More than 700 events took place over five days—involving employers, individuals, training providers, schools, stakeholders and parents—who were all keen to get involved, to learn more about apprenticeships and to share the many benefits.

Similarly, we have had more applications for the National Apprenticeship Awards—dedicated to showcasing the very best apprentice employer and individual successes, brought about through apprenticeships. More than 1,100 entries were received this year and each entry shares a story of achievement, commitment and dedication to skills.

Apprenticeships really are a great way for individuals to progress in work and a great way for employers to improve the skills base of their business.