A winning approach to apprenticeships

On January 18, 2018, Sarah Barley, trust director of careers and employability at South Hunsley School, Yorkshire, was announced as the Apprentice Champion of the Year at the National Apprenticeship Awards. What are the makings of an award-winning apprenticeship scheme and what benefits are there for schools? We investigate

An apprenticeship, for students, is an alternative career path that allows them to work towards qualifications in their field – all the while learning on the job – but they’re also a great opportunity for employers, an opportunity to hand-pick and home-grow the talent that you employ in your school. They can also be a welcome means  of funding CPD for existing staff.

As you will know, in April 2017 the apprenticeship levy – intended to support the funding of apprenticeships – was introduced. For schools – large and small – it brought with it an additional cost, but also some positive opportunities.

Optimising their value in the school setting requires a strategic plan, and this is precisely what Sarah was recognised for – earning her the title of Apprentice Champion of the Year at the National Apprenticeship Awards 2017.

Award-winning apprenticeships for students

The National Apprenticeship Awards – now in their fourth year – are run by the National Apprenticeship Service and recognise excellence in two areas: businesses that grow their own talent with apprentices and apprentices who have made a significant contribution to their workplaces. Sarah was recognised for the employer-led programme she developed for the benefit of students.

On winning the award, her message was clear. “Apprenticeships are just as good as going to university! This is the message that I want to get out to students as, all too often, the focus in schools is on UCAS.”

Her winning approach was simple and effective; she recruited 50 local employers to support and inspire young people about their next steps, whilst also planning open events to recruit employers interested in offering apprenticeships – careers guidance and future placements all wrapped into one! “The Apprenticeship Preparation Programme allows students to take part in employability skills master classes, internship placements and industry mentoring to promote apprenticeship opportunities – and it also gets them ready for apprenticeship well before an application even begins,” she explains.

“I think it is important for students to be encouraged to explore these opportunities – careers advice is no longer just a discussion, it’s an experience! Next year, teaching staff will link with an apprenticeship employer so that they too can enrich their lessons with apprenticeship information and opportunities around their subjects, making it everyone’s responsibility within a school and not just the careers advisers!”

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Award-winning apprenticeships for schools

Schools can play a dual role in apprenticeships; supporting students to make the decision to opt for an apprenticeship, then applying for and securing it, and also as an apprentice employer. “School leaders may not have considered the role of apprenticeships in their own workforce and how they can help attract vital new talent as well as support the training and development of existing staff,” Sue Husband, director of the National Apprenticeship Service, says.

“There’s a wide range of apprenticeships available for roles such as assistant school business manager, pupil service administrator and learning support or teaching assistants – and 2018 will also see the introduction of the first postgraduate teaching apprenticeships.”

These new apprenticeships are more flexible than those of bygone years and, for those who use the levy as a boost to training budgets, it can be an opportunity for employers to support the development and progress of their teams. “Organisations can grow their own talent and develop qualified and skilled staff in line with their workforce needs,” Sue observes, adding that she hopes more will consider apprenticeships as a step on the career ladder, and that more schools will consider taking on apprenticeships.

“The National Apprenticeship Awards showcase the breadth of apprenticeships on offer in a range of dynamic industries across the country and this year’s winners are all shining examples of how apprenticeships develop outstanding talent whilst enhancing the work of employers,” Sue says.

So, perhaps it’s time that you look at your apprenticeship programmes to see how you can ensure that they are delivering the best for students, staff and school.

If you have an apprenticeship strategy on place – we’d love to hear from you. Contact Marie Cahalane.

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