Freelance Training Consultant
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An overview of modern apprenticeships

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13th Aug 2012
Freelance Training Consultant
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Carrying on with our monthly theme, James Flanagan brings things up to date with a look at what apprenticeships mean in the modern world.

What are they?

An apprenticeship is a real job with training that allows the person to earn while learning and acquire a valuable and recognised qualification. They take between one and four years to complete, there are more than 200 different types of apprenticeships offering over 1,200 job roles in a range of industry sectors, from engineering to boat building, veterinary nursing to accountancy.
An apprenticeship is essentially a set of qualifications called a 'framework', developed by Sector Skills Councils (SSCs). These are independent, employer-led, UK-wide organisations committed to working to create the conditions for increased employer investment in skills to drive enterprise and create jobs and sustainable economic growth. They are driven by the belief that the sectoral approach is the most effective way to do this. Most apprenticeship frameworks follow a standard format that comprises: A National Vocational Qualification (e.g. Level 2 for Intermediate Level Apprenticeships, Level 3 for Advanced Level Apprenticeships.
Apprenticeships recognise existing skills an applicant may have thus help the person to gain their qualification faster, the learner learns at their own pace and receive support when needed.

How it works

The learning provider provides the knowledge and develops the skills while the employer provides the practical experience to put those skills to the test. Training can be classroom based, in a workshop or in a workplace, depending on the subject and on the learning provider.
As employees, apprentices earn a wage and work alongside experienced staff to gain job-specific skills. Off the job, usually on a day-release basis, apprentices receive training to work towards nationally recognised qualifications.

Who are they for?

Apprenticeships are open to all age groups above 16 years-old, recent school leavers, those who have been working for some years or are seeking to start a new career. Applicants must be living in Britain and not taking part in full-time education.
There may be different entry requirements depending on the apprenticeship and the industry sector. As competition for places with employers can be strong, applicants need to demonstrate the same levels of commitment as when applying for or in any position, showing an awareness of responsibilities to both oneself and the employer, happy to work as both part of a team and individually, and be able to use one's own initiative.
Those with a degree can do an apprenticeship but are not eligible for funding. In these circumstances it is the employer who would have to pay the training costs. If the apprentice's position is made redundant they can still continue on the same apprenticeship programme but will need to find a position with another employer.

Training

Apprenticeships are designed with the help of the employers in the industry, so they offer a structured programme that takes the learner or employee through the skills needed to do a job well. There are targets and checks to make sure the employer is supportive of the learner and they are making progress towards their qualification.
As the learner is an employee they will be in employment for most of the time as most training takes place on the job. The formal learning usually takes place at a local college or a specialist training organisation. Learners usually complete this off-the-job training on day release or over a number of days in a block. The amount of time spent away from the workplace varies according to the apprenticeship. Time away varies from one day every other fortnight to two days every week.
Employment will be for at least 30 hours per week. There may be a small number of circumstances where the learner cannot complete the full 30 hours. In these cases employment will be for more than 16 hours per week.
If the learner's position becomes redundant they can continue on the same apprenticeship programme but will obviously need to find another employer who is willing to employ them as an apprentice.

Levels

Due to the changes in the economic environment and the consequential increases in government funding apprenticeships are increasingly recognised as the gold standard for work-based training. There are over 100,000 employers offering apprenticeships in more than 160,000 locations. There are three levels of apprenticeship available:
  1. Intermediate Level Apprenticeships - Apprentices work towards work-based learning qualifications such as a Level 2 Competence Qualification, Functional Skills and, in most cases, a relevant knowledge-based qualification.
  2. Advanced Level Apprenticeships - Apprentices work towards work-based learning such as a Level 3 Competence Qualification, Functional Skills and, in most cases, a relevant knowledge based qualification.
  3. Higher Apprenticeships - Apprentices work towards work-based learning qualifications such as a Level 4 Competence Qualification, Functional Skills and, in some cases, a knowledge-based qualification such as a foundation degree.
Apprenticeships can be challenging but they are very rewarding. They give training in the skills employers want and the learners the ability to make choices in their careers. Following the attainment of the apprenticeship many learners continue to the next level and on to university. Many institutes of higher education value the skills and knowledge of apprentices and will happily offer places on a foundation degree or other higher level qualifications.
Those with a degree can do an apprenticeship but are not eligible for funding. In these circumstances it is the employer who would have to pay the training costs.

What elements are included in an apprenticeship?

A competencies qualification which must be achieved by the apprentice to qualify for an apprenticeship certificate; this demonstrates the ability to perform the skill, trade or occupation to which the framework relates to.
A technical knowledge qualification which is the qualification required to demonstrate achievement of the technical skills; this includes knowledge and understanding of theoretical concepts, the industry and its market relevant to the skill, trade or occupation to which the framework relates.
Sometimes an apprenticeship framework may have an integrated qualification which combines competence and technical knowledge elements in which each element is separately assessed.
Aptitudes in key skills including working in teams, problem-solving, communication and using new technology and functional skills (e.g. Maths and English) qualifications or a GCSE with enhanced content (e.g. Maths and English).

James Flanagan is training director of a consultancy specialising in positive leadership and has worked as a trainer and a management development consultant in a broad range of companies including IBM, Lilly, Harley Davidson, BUPA and UNICEF

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