Over the last few weeks, Kaplan has hosted some Apprenticeship Breakfast events, with over 75 guests including employers, charities, Professional Bodies and EPAOs.
The events were designed to discuss current themes, trends and issues experienced by those operating in the sector and we certainly had a lively and interesting debate.
Below, we highlight 5 of the key points that arose:
Qualifications – have we got the balance right?
The consensus was that qualifications in Apprenticeships were generally a very good thing and helped give credibility to many standards. However, concern was raised that where they were included, they became the focus of the whole programme with learners and employers less bothered about the achievement of the Apprenticeship.
For Apprenticeships to work they need to have equal weighting to qualifications but it will take time to get to this position.
Diversity and Social Mobility – are we making progress?
Most delegates agreed that the Levy in itself hadn’t suddenly made employers want to recruit more young people, the decision had to be reached from the very top and become part of the culture of an organisation, with the acknowledgement that some ‘heavy lifting’ may be required to reap future potential benefits.
Effective school engagement remained a real challenge for many employers (even very large ones) but parent power was the number one barrier, especially when trying to increase applications from BAME backgrounds with parent perception that a degree was the only option.
Do Apprenticeships need a rebrand?
Linked to diversity, we had a healthy debate on whether the term Apprenticeship should be rebranded to make it more appealing and less associated with traditional ‘trades’.
Overwhelmingly most disagreed with this, arguing it would be very unhelpful in the mission to put Apprenticeships on an equal footing to University. As a sector we needed to really push this message and help change perception rather than take the easier option of just re-badging the programmes we offer.
The importance of the right fit…
All new standards need to have an End Point Assessment attached. What was absolutely clear was that it was essential learners on a programme are in the right job role to enable them to demonstrate the right level of knowledge, skills and behaviours when they get to EPA stage.
The EPA isn’t just a ‘rubber stamp’, rather it is a robust assessment of how somebody has performed in that particular job role. Early engagement with providers and EPAOs is absolutely key to ensuring the best possible chance of success.
Too many standards or too few?
There are currently a wealth of different standards to choose from in the wider Financial Services, Accountancy and Leadership and Management space – a lot for any employer or learner to navigate.
But our discussions highlighted that the range, though broad, didn’t necessarily meet every need…so jumping from Level 3 to Level 6 /7 in some pathways was possibly too big a leap. The jury remains out but with many standards up for review in 2019, this will surely be a key question to address.
Yes challenges and change lie ahead, and we are very used to this in this sector, but overwhelmingly the message from the sessions was one of positivity, with a genuine passion and commitment to make Apprenticeships work.
Our favourite comment was from an employer who stated “I would genuinely choose somebody who had completed a full standard, including EPA, over somebody who had just done a qualification.” If this type of thinking continues, then Apprenticeships surely have a very bright future.