Grow your own: using apprenticeships to cater to local job markets
Collaborations between training providers and employers can help to bridge local skills gaps
12 July 2013
Apprenticeships play a critical role in securing jobs for individuals and boosting prosperity for the nation. The education system seeks to produce work-ready candidates, and for that to happen, apprenticeship schemes must meet the needs of local employers. How can the learning and skills sector work with businesses to co-create apprenticeship programmes that address skill shortages and prepare young people for the job market?
Collaboration between trainers and employers sounds like a sensible route to raising standards but logistically it can be a headache. How can you decide on course content and a delivery structure that meets the needs of local employers when you liaise with so many? And how do you then apply the same internal rigour to the external partners you work with? The hallmark of the most successful partnerships is joint ownership and responsibility.
One well-known and often cited example of best practice is the collaboration between Bridgewater College and Mulberry, the iconic leather goods manufacturer. Mulberry prides itself on being an authentic British brand and was determined to keep 30% of its production in the UK, but was faced with a looming skills shortage. Apprenticeships were the perfect solution.
Ian Scott, the company’s supply director, wanted to offer an apprenticeship that equipped young people with the skills they would genuinely need in the workplace. It is difficult for the workplace to provide high quality teaching and rigorous assessment. Likewise, it is difficult for colleges to offer up-to-date machinery and a realistic work setting. Together, Bridgewater College and Mulberry designed an apprenticeship that played to the partnership’s strengths: one with real purpose and real value. Lessons were delivered at 7.30am at the factory so they didn’t disrupt the working day. The Functional Skills elements were contextualised so that the trainees could apply their new skills every day.
Bringing trainers and employers together feels like a common sense approach to bridging the UK's skills gap. Listening to local needs and reaching out seems a good place to start.
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