The Commons sub-committee on education, skills and the economy heard yesterday about the unique selling points that apprenticeships offer.
“It shows employers that it’s a transferable skill – that the person has the right type of skills to take around the sector and the world. That’s different from an individual training scheme that’s more tailored to a specific company,” said Mark Froud, Managing Director, Federation for Industry Sector Skills and Standards
However, Stephen Tetlow, Chief Executive, Institution of Mechanical Engineers cautioned that the government’s 3m by 2020 target was an issue that needed to be addressed. “The main concern is that colleges are [being] sacrificed on the altar of a 3 million target,” he told MPs.
Tetlow said: “The requirements [of apprenticeships] vary very much between region, type of industry and sector. And in our view this is something that needs to be tackled very much in terms of demand on a regional basis.”
Tetlow continued that the whole apprenticeship system should be underpinned by national standards, “So that you can enable a dynamic in apprenticeships that when one sector begins to wane, there are standards that enables you to transfer your skills into some other sector. The mindset should be that apprenticeships are part of the national infrastructure, much like the road network, that allows movement – skills are the same:provide the infrastructure so you can vary the traffic depending on demand.”
Quality must be paramount
There isn’t just one answer, said Froud, but new apprenticeships must have quality at their heart. “The established apprenticeships set up the current system but in the arts and digital there are lots of opportunities, so we have to make sure we define and measure quality properly. The key thing is that employers understand what the key competencies are and that they are measured in a consistent way,” he said.
Other witnesses included Lisa Burger, Executive Director, Royal National Theatre, who agreed for the need to improve careers advice as well helping employers understand the benefits of apprenticeships.