Variability of standards could undermine apprenticeships

The British Chambers of Commerce held its annual education and skills summit in London yesterday and heard a warning from the president of Pearson UK that the credibility of apprenticeships could be undermined by confusion and variable standards.

Rod Bristow, who leads one of the UK’s biggest educational companies, said that a greater understanding of how apprenticeships work has to be arrived at: “It is a concern…I think the idea of [doing] a qualification is very important for the learner. It goes much deeper than that, though. It’s about making sure that we have got a good understanding of standards…There is a great risk that there will be a variability in standards between apprenticeship programmes which will undermine their credibility. That’s my worry.

“In our case we are going to [champion] the…BTEC as much as we possibly can. BTECs are at the heart of the apprenticeships, the frameworks that employers…want.”


‘A fantastic way to break down divide’

Bristow was keen to get employers, training providers and the government to all work together to bridge the divide between academic and vocational education – and pinpointed apprenticeships as a vital tool to do that.

“I think this issue of the divide…between the apprenticeship and the degree is another way of saying the divide between the practical and the academic, and I think that divide is being broken down,” he said.

“It’s the divide that arguably originated at the beginning of the 20th century when people divided the workforce into the managers who thought about industrialisation and the manufacturing and the workers who just carried out the decisions that were made by managers.

That doesn’t happen now…the apprenticeship programme requires you to do a huge amount of thinking and decision-making as much as it does getting things done. I think a great apprenticeship represents a fantastic way to break that divide down. It really does bring those two things together.”