National Apprenticeship Week – Step forward the apprentices!

Posted by  David Way, learndirect Apprenticeship Ambassador and former CEO of NAS ,

When I was the CEO of the National Apprenticeship Service, National Apprenticeship Week was the time of year I enjoyed the most. Now in it’s 10th year, it is a time of celebration with employers and especially for their successful apprentices.

The idea of a national campaign came about as we struggled to get traction in the media for stories about the growing success story of the revival of Apprenticeships. It seems odd to recall now that only a few years ago, I was being told by people, “wouldn’t it be a great idea to bring back Apprenticeships.”

A national campaign, supported by employers, colleges and training providers right across the country gave us collective scale and impact. Local media loved it because these were local people achieving great things. MPs were keen to support local celebration events and to work alongside an apprentice. I expect the photographers present helped.

In those early days, the messages that we tried to get across became more ambitious though really the week was underlining that Apprenticeships were back and in an increasingly wide range of occupations. Apprenticeships were still mostly associated with skilled manual trades and opening people’s ideas to broader possibilities was a great benefit from our few days in the media light.

Colleges and training providers will be developing plans for the week. I know that learndirect have been and I look forward to supporting one such event at the Leeds Teaching Hospital Trust.

I visited Anchor last year and recall being so impressed with the quality of both the apprentices and the support they received. It also reminded me of why it is such a pleasure to work in the world of skills.

While I am sure that Government has its plans for the week’s main theme ready to go, so often the media chooses a track of its own, often in relation to a well-placed story or piece of research.

If however, there is a relatively free run at the main Apprenticeship messages, I hope that we will be able to see past the immediate pressures of the introduction of the levy and focus on some of the big changes in Apprenticeships that most people still do not appreciate.

One of those themes would be the opportunity that now exists for young people to take the Apprenticeship route and join companies that previously only recruited graduates. Businesses want the best young talent and many of these recruits are to be found among those who choose to go into employment and continue to learn while working.

If the levy policy is successful, there will be many more Apprenticeship opportunities this year. A National Apprenticeship Week that speaks to those potential young applicants, their families and advisers would therefore be very timely. Every good Apprenticeship requires a good apprentice.

I recall visiting a girls’ school with a Jaguar Land Rover apprentice who opened the eyes of every member of class with her personal story of her Apprenticeship. They asked questions that I would never have asked. Which car did she drive, whether she had her own home and her salary? She answered them all.

I know that National Apprenticeship week will be a great occasion as always and will be supported by all of the employers working with learndirect.

I hope there is space in the media for hundreds of stories of young people and how Apprenticeships have transformed their lives. We know it’s true. We just need thousands more young people to appreciate this fact and take the great opportunities that employers offer.

David Way

learndirect Apprenticeship Ambassador, former CEO of NAS and author of ‘A Race to the Top’, showcasing employer experiences and insights into Apprenticeships.