The Brave New World of Apprenticeships

Mark Boulting, managing director of Devon-based training provider Skills Group, kicks off a series of monthly columns looking at issues surrounding apprenticeships and career development for employees.

Apprenticeships: It shouldn’t be so complex!

So, we are at the start of the brave new world of apprenticeships, according to the government, a simpler one with employers in the driving seat. However, most employers I talk to certainly don’t feel that way. In fact the new raft of standards, contracts, fees, levies and digital accounts, seem to be extra hurdles in the way of taking on and training a new staff member, who happens to be an apprentice.

The result has unfortunately been confusion and a consequential drop in the number of apprenticeship starts across all ages, in particularly the 16- 19 age group. Not great if you left school in July and want to start in the world of work.

The good news is that by working together we can overcome these new challenges, because the real job of training an apprentice hasn’t changed. We are still using our combined experience and expertise to teach knowledge, skills and behaviours in the workplace. In return the apprentice gives us their time, commitment and industry as part of the employer’s workforce to increase productivity and output.

At Skills Group it’s our job to guide employers and apprentices through the maze of regulation to allow them to focus on the important stuff – developing skills and becoming an integral part of the employer’s team.

The commitment of employers and ambition of young people hasn’t gone away, particularly within Plymouth where we have enjoyed a reputation as best in the UK for apprenticeships. So it’s our job to work together to ensure this latest bump in the road doesn’t prevent us from staying the best and keeping those opportunities coming.

This latest confusion will become easier as the latest reforms bed in, and we are here as an experienced and impartial guide to ensure you, as employers, can continue to support apprenticeships the way you always have. My plea to all employers is not to be put off by the latest government changes, frustrating as they may be, but to remember why you get involved in apprenticeships, what they give you as an organisation, and the great life changing opportunity they give the apprentice.

If you have concerns and worries talk to us, and other providers, and together we can ensure that our track record of producing the best apprentices in the country continues.

I always struggled in school as I wasn’t very academic, so knew learning on the job would be a better option for me. I would find it difficult to get up for 9am but now I wake up and look forward to my day. I wanted to try a hair apprenticeship as I’ve always been interested in hairdressing, and by the end of the first week, I already loved it!

Jaimee Benson, Level 2 Hairdressing

I have developed a range of new skills through work including the technical, industry skills required for the job, to personal development such as ensuring I am always on time. The biggest change since leaving school is adjusting to the independence you gain from earning a salary. My advice to anyone thinking of doing an apprenticeship would be find what you like doing, and go for it!

Will Birch, Level 2 Bricklaying

Since starting the apprenticeship, I’ve become far more confident. In a classroom, you only interact with your classmates, but through working you develop your people skills as you interact with customers on a daily basis. At school, you are closely monitored and parented, however I am now more independent and feel grown up

Sam Collard, Level 2 Light Vehicle and Maintenance Repair

The most important thing I’ve learnt since leaving school is that there are other routes to success than just academia. I failed my GCSEs, as I never suited the school environment. Now though, I’m really enjoying my apprenticeship as I’ve discovered I learn more through hands-on practice.

Ben Freeman, Level 2 Carpentry

I would just like to thank you and your team for all the amazing work they do, you have provided me with the most invaluable experience which has helped to pave the way of my future. The work you do for young people is incredible!

Luke Kowalski, Teaching Assistant and former apprentice at Sir Robert Gefferys School