With National Apprenticeship Week launching today, I want to set you all a challenge. And that challenge is to discover what an apprenticeship can offer you, your organisation or members of your family.
This year's National Apprenticeship Week is set to be the most significant yet as it sees the launch of 'The New Era of Apprenticeships'. There is no better time than right now to cut through the myths and discover the opportunities that completing or running an apprenticeship programme can offer.
Having worked in the private sector for over 30 years, I have often heard organisations say "why aren't we running our own apprenticeship programmes anymore?" However in recent years, more and more, employers are realising the benefits of employing apprentices. PricewaterhouseCoopers is a good example. The organisation had run a graduate scheme for many years but recently launched its own apprenticeship programme to run alongside the graduate programme. In December of last year, it was also announced that PricewaterhouseCoopers was successful in its bid to receive funding from the government to develop a Higher Apprenticeship Programme.
Higher Apprenticeship Programmes are a critical element of the new era of apprenticeships in this country. It will allow people to study apprenticeships to degree equivalent level, enabling employers, colleges and universities to deliver the advanced skills which are so essential for growth. The government has announced that funding of up to £25million will support the development of 19,000 new higher apprenticeships in sectors including advanced engineering, insurance, financial services and construction.
I can certainly think of many occasions when I have heard parents say "why would I want my child to do an apprenticeship, it only leads to a dead end job". In answer to that I would ask how many parents were aware that you could study an apprenticeship up to degree level? Over the past couple of years I think we have done a really good job in getting people to talk about apprenticeships, in a way I don't believe that they have done for over two decades. But I acknowledge there is still a way to go in educating young people, parents and employers on the range of apprenticeships available and the progression routes on offer to an apprentice.
Whilst we have seen unprecedented levels of growth in apprenticeships over the past few years, despite the very difficult economic environment, we also have to ensure we maintain the highest levels of quality. To do this the National Apprenticeship Service has launched a quality framework and in response to the short duration programmes we have made a clear statement, supported by the government, that by August every single 16 to 18-year-old apprenticeship will last for a minimum of 12 months.
The new era of apprenticeships underlines the commitments we have made to raise the standards, esteem and participation in apprenticeships in this country. Most importantly, we have taken action on raising standards by placing quality at the forefront of the drive to encourage more employers to offer apprenticeships and more young people to participate and reap the many benefits of completing an apprenticeship.
During National Apprenticeship Week I hope you have the opportunity to learn more about apprenticeships. Visit www.apprenticeships.org.uk to find out about events happening in your area and follow us on twitter @apprenticeships for the latest news.
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