A week in training: Apprentice report, LSC row and best companies for L&D

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This week: A major report recommends a clearer skills route for apprenticeships, writes Claire Savage; the Learning and Skills Council comes under fire in a college funding row; the Sunday Times chooses its best companies for training and development; and the hunt begins for training stars.

Clearer skills route for apprenticeships needed
The UK’s apprenticeship renaissance could stall if careers information and guidance is not overhauled according to a report by the Skills Commission.

The report, which draws on a six-month inquiry, states too few young people, of all academic abilities, are taking up apprenticeships due to inadequate careers advice but also a lack of clear progression routes.

One of the major issues uncovered during the inquiry is that careers guidance professionals didn’t understand local skills shortages or employer demand for apprentices. The Commission also investigated the potential impact of the new 14-19 Diplomas on apprenticeships. Witnesses called for a much clearer mapping between Diploma and Apprenticeship requirements.

The Commission urged the government to accelerate the process of accrediting advanced apprenticeship frameworks with UCAS tariff points to help dispel the idea that undertaking an apprenticeship limits individuals’ chance of progressing to higher education.

Progression through Apprenticeships, contains 23 policy recommendations relating to four key areas: entry to apprenticeships; progression from other learning pathways: progression to advanced Apprenticeships; and progression to advanced further education and higher education.

In response to the report, Skills Secretary John Denham pledged to help apprentices go to university, and to ensure higher education meets the needs of students who have come up through a vocational route.

The government's higher level skills strategy is due to be published next month.

Teachers knowledge of apprenticeships'poor'
Meanwhile, teacher understanding of apprenticeships must radically improve for the Government programme to achieve its full potential, according to new research by Edge.

More than half (56%) of teachers surveyed rated their knowledge of apprenticeships as poor, by contrast, only 8% said they had a poor understanding of university degrees.

Furthermore, just one in four teachers (24%) believed apprenticeships were a good alternative to A-Levels or equivalent qualifications.

Andy Powell, chief executive of Edge, said: “Teachers are one of the main sources of careers advice to young people so it is a real travesty that they don’t have a good knowledge of apprenticeships... The fact that teachers have admitted they have a good knowledge of university degrees highlights the deep-seated bias towards academic qualifications within our education system.”

LSC under fire over college funding
Colleges across England have been left in chaos after embarking on rebuilding projects only to have promised funding withheld.

In total, 144 college expansion projects around England are said to have been put on hold indefinitely after the Learning and Skills Council review their funding, the BBC reports.

According to a survey by the Association of Colleges, at least £170m would have to be written off if their capital projects did not get the LSC backing they were expecting.

The LSC, told the BBC that "it has always been perfectly clear that full funding and final approval was not guaranteed and that colleges were proceeding at their own risk".

Award-winning training
Microsoft UK Ltd has been named 'Best for training & development' among mid-sized organisations in the annual The Sunday Times Best Companies to Work For awards.

Noted by the judges was the fact that 75% of staff said they weren't bored with their work and were sure that the experience they were gaining would be valuable for the future (86%). Also of note was the Leaders Building Leaders programme, which encourages managers to spend time with those moving up the Microsoft ladder, and allows emerging leaders to learn from the experts. More than half of the senior management team were promoted from within the company.

Blue Rubicon PR picked up the same accolade among smaller companies. Judges praised its lunchtime sessions, with talks given by staff and experts on subjects from speechwriting at Whitehall or counterterrorism to the recent American election. The firm invests about £20,000 per person in skills and knowledge training, and feedback comes from client reviews, personal development plans and continuous advice and guidance.

Accenture won the prize among large organisations. Noted by the judges was its web-based performance management process that allows staff to record their performance objectives and request and receive feedback, its career counselling structure and MyLearning - a web-based tool that offers staff a curriculum based on the employee's workforce, geography and career level.

Over-all, KPMG topped The Sunday Times Best Big Companies to Work For list. The professional service firm also received Life Achievement award for leading the list for the third time in four years. Beaverbrooks the Jewellers topped the Best Mid Companies to Work For list and national debt counselling charity Christians Against Poverty led the Best Small Companies to Work For list.

Training stars wanted
The Learning and Skills Improvement Service (LSIS) is looking for tutors, trainers, managers and support staff who make a real difference and regularly give over and above what is expected of them in their every day roles.

Nomination packs, including a whole host of materials which can be used to encourage staff and learners to nominate are available at the STAR website.

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