This week is National Apprenticeship Week and it is heartening to see so much attention being paid to the issue, not least from the government, which is looking to strengthen the current apprenticeship programme.
As is always the case in matters like this, it will be the way that apprenticeships are run, and the skills they deliver, that will make the difference over the long-term. We’ve mentioned before the programmes that countries such as Germany have developed to train young people, and it is imperative for the career prospects and aspirations of young people in the UK that they can access a variety of high quality training and education that enables them to make a successful transition to the workplace.
When we take Keep the Cash!, our financial education and employability skills programme, into schools we always find that students are eager to learn about the world of work and the responsibilities that they will have to shoulder when they get a job. Far from being layabouts and shirkers, they show great interest and enthusiasm, but their knowledge of what having a job entails is considerably lacking. In short, they are unprepared for work.
In a recent conversation with a well-established apprenticeship provider, we were surprised to learn that two of the biggest problems they had on their schemes were getting their apprentices to turn up on time and, when they did arrive, to see the course through. One of the reasons for this is that many of the apprentices had no idea what their responsibilities were – they had never been employed before and had no experience or understanding of the commitment required. They didn’t see it as being of any great importance.
For many people in work, it may seem absurd to hear that someone didn’t know they should turn up on time but if our young people are not taught these things in school or at home, or given the opportunity to experience work in this way, then why would they?
Apprenticeships are a vital part of education and employment, and we need to ensure that the current enthusiasm for them is matched by the quality of delivery on the actual schemes. Only then will they offer a viable pathway for young people to work towards their aspirations.