I am writing this editorial following National Apprenticeship Week, when workplace learning for young people was prominent in the news.
Chances are if they come from an educated family, where employment and money isn’t a constant concern, they are likely to be engaged with learning from the outset. Strong family finances mean these children have the luxury of trying a variety of interests and sporting activities to identify their talent early enough to stay engaged at school until at least 16 and increasingly well into young adulthood. This connection to learning should lead to achievement good enough to get these young people on the first rung of the employment ladder.
But what of the rest? Admittedly many children from less privileged backgrounds make good lives for themselves but there is a sizeable group who remain in low paid jobs without any prospect of improving their circumstances. Apprenticeships offer a form of education while earning a wage, allowing young people to gain skills and experience within a professional working environment. The resurgence of interest in apprenticeships can only be welcomed. However, is it enough?
Government investment in apprenticeships is clearly providing the incentive for organisations to think about apprenticeships as part of their learning and development solutions. Last year’s TJ Awards’ winner in the apprenticeship category, Spirit Pub Company, admit that political commitment to apprenticeships encouraged them towards that option (p15).
As Chris Jones, chief executive of City & Guilds, said on Budget Day last month: “Today’s budget had a common theme – job creation.
“However, creating jobs is one thing, filling them is another. To fill these jobs, we need people with the right skills. The Government has already invested significantly into apprenticeships and that’s great. But they are only part of the solution. We need to go further to bridge the gap between education and employment.
“To do this, we need to bring careers advice into the 21st century, and use market data on skills gaps to shape the advice young people receive.”
The risk of letting the skills gap widen is too great. Our ability to compete in a fastchanging economic environment will be compromised. All those with an interest in the success of their organisations need to look at the wider picture concerning how we learn – from cradle to grave – and work to provide more for our people in the future.
Debbie Carter, Editor