Apprenticeships take centre stage at the sixth Skills Summit

Policymakers, training providers, colleges and organisations from across the UK gathered in London yesterday to discuss apprenticeships and their role in UK productivity

Apprenticeships came under the spotlight yesterday at The Skills Summit which brought together policymakers, training providers, colleges and organisations to learn and debate about apprenticeships and their impact on UK growth.

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The Government’s target of 3 million apprentices by 2020 has raised apprenticeships to the top of agenda and the change in policy over the coming years is going to impact organisations large and small.

The imposition of the apprenticeship levy in April 2017 will impact all organisations with a payroll of over £3 million a year so this injection of funding is inevitably going to change current practice and encourage those paying the levy, which is essentially a tax, to invest in apprenticeship schemes.

Skills Minister, Nick Boles who was due to open the conference was unable to attend, however during an exclusive interview to TJ before the conference he said: “We would recognise that we [the UK] have, for a long time, boasted about our reputation for academic education but we have rarely been able to similarly boast about our system for technical and vocational education.” Determined to change this perception the new policy clearly puts apprenticeships centre-stage in workplace skills and development.

Certain themes were raised throughout the day and obviously resonated with much of the audience. The lack of good careers advice to young people as they progress through school and the absence of work experience opportunities. What happened to the Saturday jobs that many young people used to gain valuable insights into the world of work?

An obsession with higher education means that we are producing too many graduates and as Ben Wilmott from the CIPD noted over half our graduates are in non-graduate roles. There is a need to educate parents and teachers that apprenticeships offer great opportunities for our young people. Although apprenticeships are not the exclusive domain of the young as the audience was reminded by a representative from British Gas who had recently recruited a 61-year old apprentice.

The debate on apprenticeships is likely to be centre-stage for the foreseeable future as critical skill shortages in construction, engineering and many more crucial sectors continue to hold back UK productivity. The levy will inject valuable resources into skills development but already some organisations are looking to accredit their existing training programmes as apprenticeships which may leave other areas of development like leadership and management under-funded.



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