09 Feb 2024
by Tom Ravenscroft

The future-proof apprenticeship

Tom Ravenscroft of Skills Builder Partnership writes about the realities of apprenticeships this National Apprenticeship Week.

We all know the workplace is evolving faster than ever - driven by technological advances and ever-higher expectations. This places a huge premium on building the latest technical skills - but, ironically, it also makes this insufficient.

The reality is that the lifespan of technical skills is rapidly shortening, necessitating a fundamental shift in the way individuals approach their careers.

Traditionally, technical skills have been highly valued from engineering to healthcare to finance. These skills are specific and tangible, attached to a particular sector, role, or even a specific job. Building them has been the main focus of formal education or on-the-job training.

However, the rapid advancement of technology means that what is considered cutting-edge today may become obsolete tomorrow. The emergence of new tools, software, and methodologies constantly reshapes industries, rendering certain technical skills outdated within a few years or even months.

This phenomenon, known as the shortening half-life of technical skills, poses significant challenges for individuals seeking to build sustainable careers. No longer can professionals rely solely on their technical expertise to propel their careers forward. Instead, they must cultivate a diverse set of transferable skills that enable them to adapt to changing circumstances, learn quickly, and thrive through change.

We call these essential skills: those highly transferable skills which are needed by almost anyone to do almost any job, and which support the application of technical skills and knowledge. In the Skills Builder Universal Framework we focus on eight skills: listening and speaking; teamwork and leadership; aiming high and staying positive; and creativity and problem solving.

These skills transcend industry boundaries. Unlike technical skills, which may become obsolete over time, essential skills have enduring relevance and provide a solid foundation for career growth and resilience.

Individuals already know how vital these essential skills are: 85% of individuals reported that these skills were vital for their success, while only 14% reported having the opportunities to do so. At the same time, evidence shows that they are linked to higher earnings and higher job and life satisfaction.

As we mark National Apprenticeship Week we should commit to ensuring that every apprentice is being equipped with the skills to really achieve their potential and set up for their careers - not just the job immediately in front of them.

At Skills Builder Partnership, 900 partners worked with more than 2.6million last year to boost essential skills. We do this with rigour, by working step-by-step through the eight skills. That might mean learning how to create a mindmap; chairing a meeting; or demonstrating active listening. Individuals learn how to be persuasive; how to use evidence and test hypotheses; and how to generate and pivot on strategic plans.

By equipping apprentices with these tangible tools we are setting them up for success - able to seize new opportunities, adapt and re-learn, and truly achieve their potential.


Tom Ravenscroft

Tom Ravenscroft

Founder and CEO, Skills Builder Partnership

Tom Ravenscroft is Founder & CEO of Skills Builder Partnership, a global partnership of more than 900 education institutions, employers, and impact organisations working together to ensure that everyone builds the essential skills to thrive.