This past week, we heard from apprentices within our member organisations and those who hire them.
techUK Skills and Diversity Council member, Amanda Cooper, who heads up Thales’ UK Strategic Capability Planning said “the best thing (about apprenticeships) is definitely the exposure to the workplace...I got immediate experience of industry, which I wouldn’t have got at university, and because the training was very specific I felt completely ready to start working when I finished my course.”
And, Shajida Akthar from Accenture reflected on her experience as an apprentice saying “I’ve gained so much from my apprenticeship and I’m keen to show other young women that they can succeed in the traditionally male-dominated industries of technology and engineering. Accessible role models can make all the difference, and I hope that by sharing my experience I can encourage others to discover their passion and embrace the opportunities available”. You can read these stories and more here.
Apprenticeships are absolutely crucial to closing the skills gap and increasing diversity in our sector. More must be done to make sure apprenticeships are not just open to everyone in principle but also attract people from every background and to every age. In 2017, the Government scrapped the age limit for apprentices - companies can now use their training funds to upskill their existing workforce. The quality of the training is also better with 400 new apprenticeship standards available with more to come. Fantastic progress has been made, but there is still more to do.
The Government has rightly prioritised apprenticeships setting an ambition of 3 million apprenticeship starts by 2020. Unfortunately, the latest findings from the National Audit Office suggest the Government is unlikely to meet this target.
The report shows that despite the Apprenticeship Levy raising over £2bn from employers in 2017/18, there were only 375,800 starts that academic year. This was 26% lower than the 509,400 starts in 2015/16, the last full year before the reform. Clearly something is not working.
Industry and Government must work to reform the levy to ensure that apprenticeships remain a key component of our efforts to close the skills gap and offer individuals a variety of routes into tech. This week’s campaign has highlighted just how valuable apprenticeships are for apprentices and employers alike and should re-energise to making the levy work so we can all reap the rewards.