National Apprenticeship Week takes place in the UK 4-8 March to highlight the benefits of apprenticeships to employers, individuals, local communities and the economy. Earlier this year, the government, keen to promote the opportunities that apprenticeships can offer young people, launched its ‘Fire it Up’ campaign, promoting apprenticeships through national TV, social media and a new website.
This comes on the back of initiatives that have raised the profile – not to mention actual funds – of apprenticeships with business. The apprenticeship levy (0.5% of annual payroll for employers with an annual pay bill over £3 million) introduced in 2017, was a strong commitment from the government to making apprenticeships a success. Participating employers access funds through the digital service to pay for apprenticeship schemes.
Plugging skills gaps
As they sit at the intersection between education and the world of work, apprenticeships are ideally placed to plug skills gaps in the workforce. By providing the right sort of training and learning, they can meet the needs of employers, educators and apprentices, as well as industry and the wider economy, by equipping tomorrow’s workforce with the skills and experience it will need.
To be successful at this, apprenticeships need to provide the right training and deliver it in the right way. Increasingly, this means meeting the need for modern, flexible learning solutions.
For the University of Suffolk, delivering three new degree apprenticeships programmes with at least a third of the content delivered online, that meant introducing a learning product that students can access from a range of locations.
“Learning any time, any place, anywhere”
On a recent webinar, Ellen Buck, Head of Learning Services at the university explains why: “We know that learning doesn’t happen only in university, that it happens in the home and, for our nursing students, in their hospitals. So, the product needed to be responsive; it needed to be mobile-friendly and it needed to allow students to be able to download and access content offline and online, and for lecturers to do marking offline and online.”
It was also important for learning to be adaptive and to fit in with students’ lives and the way they approach learning.
Apprentices span a range of different backgrounds, learning styles and levels of knowledge. Their learning outcomes can be optimised through personalised learning paths that adapt according to each individual’s progress and needs.
Progress tracking and continual improvement
Keeping track of progress is fundamental to every learning programme, whether it’s at school, in higher or further education or in apprenticeships.
Ellen says: “We needed to be able to provide data to our employers as part of the apprenticeship framework – how are their students progressing? how are they engaging? But we also wanted to use it as an opportunity for us to understand how the learning was being delivered; how it was acting and impacting on engagement – how can we use that data moving forwards.”
It’s a level of insight that digital learning programmes are perhaps uniquely placed to provide.
Learning analytics can provide detail around what works for each apprentice, each course and programme. It gives tutors insight that they can use to evolve learning content or delivery in apprenticeships. It equips employers to track apprentices’ progress and to engage with them over what is, and isn’t, working.
A learning platform can also facilitate a digital record of an apprentice’s achievements. Being digital, it’s simpler to create, access and add to than a paper-based record and, not only that, it can include practical examples that demonstrate the student’s skills and capabilities in, for example, video format.
National Apprenticeship Week is the ideal time for employers to consider if they are getting the most out of apprenticeship programmes and how their involvement can shape future learning for tomorrow’s apprentices. This includes not only ensuring that in-demand skills are developed in career starters – an incredibly important endeavour – but also that the way learning is undertaken delivers the best possible experience for educators, apprentices and employers for successful apprenticeship outcomes.