To kick off our celebration of National Apprenticeship Week 2021, Andrew Hammond, CEO of the Instructus Group, shares his thoughts on changing the perception of apprenticeship training.
I make no apology for not making detailed comment on the recent Skills for Jobs white paper and for not using the language of the education sector. This week is all about apprentices, so instead, I wanted to give a personal view particular to this area.
When I was a young university student in the late ’80s I marched with conviction, holding a placard that stated “Education is a right, not a privilege.” It’s a view that I still hold to this day; albeit with a slightly nuanced perception.
I now feel that the ‘right’ education is a right.
As employers and changemakers, we should focus our political efforts, our societal efforts, and our commercial efforts on ensuring that we provide the right educational options at every level of learning.
This includes expanding our view on what education and training can be.
We need to start seeing apprenticeships as the optimal career choice for a wider range of circumstances, rather than through an antiquated hierarchical structure.
Don’t worry – I believe that the right education at the right time still includes universities. But it’s important to recognise that universities are just a part of the overall mix.
I can guarantee that employers across the country care significantly more about a candidate’s ability to do a good job than about where they earned their degree.
Changing Perceptions, Shaping the Future
And that pragmatism underscores how perceptions are changing.
In my extended family, all our kids have – by default – ended up going to university. Until, that is, my delightful nephew Oscar, who instead opted for an apprenticeship in Project Management at BAE.
We are very proud of all the kids, but Oscar broke the mould of expectation and has flourished as a result. He is having a great apprenticeship experience; learning loads, becoming very employable, having fun, and visibly maturing.
However, it is the reaction of Oscar’s parents, aunties, and uncles – all of whom went to university – of which I am most aware. They could not be prouder of him and his progress. His apprenticeship is a badge of honour, rather than a left-field career choice.
And now, they are asking me questions about employing apprentices and expanding their own views of recruitment.
I tell this story to demonstrate that as the perception of apprenticeships changes, the support infrastructure will change in turn. This is how employer attitudes will evolve.
We will realise that the diversity of talent we need for the future can only come from a diversity of training opportunities. Apprenticeships, more than ever, are the cornerstone of this diversity.
So, we have clear synergy.
The more that we accept apprenticeships as a key foundation of the workforce of the future, the stronger they will be in societal perception, and thus reality. The more this happens, the more employers will invest time, energy, and commitment to apprenticeship training.
It all sounds simple, and we are making great steps – but now is the time to turbocharge our efforts. Now is the time to look at the skills we need for the future, rather than just the here and now.
The Right Environment
A recent study established that only half of UK graduates are working in a field related to their degree. 96% move jobs by the age of 24.
University is right for many people, especially given the wider learning and life experience gained beyond the subject studied. Yet the numbers show that the academic commitment may not have been appropriate for many graduates.
Beyond simply changing the perception of apprenticeships, we also have to consider how we enhance the wider learning experience – how we can build the experiential elements of a university degree into apprenticeships at all levels.
So, in this National Apprenticeship Week, I ask you not just to celebrate for a week, but to also reflect on a simple thought.
Diversity in training and equality in access can only help to build the diverse and talented workforce we need for the future.
So what can you do to create an environment where opportunity flourishes?
Andrew Hammond is always happy to discuss apprenticeships, lifelong learning, and the many benefits of personal and professional development. Away from the office, you’ll either find him climbing a mountain or skiing down the side of it.
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