Parallel pathways – A call to action for training providers
Over the last couple of years I have witnessed an evolving perception of education in the workplace, with more employers placing greater emphasis on the importance of learning and development amongst their workforce to achieve both corporate and strategic business objectives. Nowhere has this evolution been more nuanced than in the rising popularity of 'Parallel Pathways', a process of delivery where an employer's career pathway is mapped to a provider's learning and development programme solution.
Historically, apprenticeships have been seen as squarely focused on the development of the individual, a closed relationship between trainer and learner with little impact or emphasis on a company's wider business. This was often coupled with the perception that, as apprenticeship programmes were 'free' at the point of service, there was little value attached to them. Slowly, but surely this has started to change. In part this has been possible through an increasing amount of partnership agreements between employers and providers in the form of 'Parallel Pathways'.
'Parallel Pathways' is a unique partnership between provider and employer to ensure the learners' journey and learning experience is of the highest quality while being beneficial to both the individual and for the business. This joined up approach binds a company's workforce closer to their business, ensuring that any apprenticeship programme effectively reflects the company's core values and delivers appropriate and relevant training.
In a 'Parallel Pathway' approach, education starts early and the models can be highly-flexible, allowing employers to collaborate with providers and schools to attract young, fresh talent into their business. With such a wealth of opportunity for companies to dictate the content of their courses it is up to us, the providers, to communicate this message and flag the wide range of tailored opportunities to employers. For example, this could be achieved through increasing awareness of how learning and development programmes (such as apprenticeship qualifications) can be embraced and woven into a company to aid the achievement of key business objectives, including: retention, performance, management skills and customer service/satisfaction.
Naturally, the Government's planned changes to the infrastructure of learning and apprenticeships will affect the existing relationship between employers and training providers. The lack of clear information regarding the future framework has raised some concerns about the future of 'Parallel Pathway' schemes.
As the managing partner of a training provider, it is my view that any reform to the delivery of skills and training in the UK must take into account the hard work and dedication of the skills sector to integrate and map qualifications into an employer's career pathway. Providers need to celebrate the successful outcomes of this approach and forge relationships with employers that recognise these benefits. This will guarantee that any future framework prominently promotes the value of a 'Parallel Pathways' approach.
There is still plenty of work to be done and it is only right and responsible that we should hold the government to account and question any new changes to the structure which will have a direct effect on the existing delivery of 'Parallel Pathways', but we cannot be backwards facing, nor bury our heads in the sand in the face of the inevitable and the unavoidable. Skills and training is a dynamic sector and we must embrace changes we see afoot, utilising them to strengthen the good work of embedded relationships with specialist providers in existing 'Parallel Pathway' schemes, supporting employers to become more ambitious in their business.