I believe that apprenticeships should be for everyone, not just young people. They’re a fantastic opportunity to improve social mobility, which applies as much to adults as it does to school-leavers. Not everyone can, or wants to, go to university, but it doesn’t mean that they should miss out on the chance to have a recognised, transferable professional qualification.
Jon Thompson, Permanent Secretary for HMRC, is himself a former apprentice and, as he explained in his blog earlier this year, the experience and professional base he gained from this led to further roles and eventually to his current position.
The reform of apprenticeships, which is being led by BIS, focuses on occupations rather than sectors or grades. If you can define a role, for example ‘software developer’ or ‘data analyst’, you can potentially work with other employers to design a new apprenticeship for it.
Civil Service Learning (CSL) is at the forefront of this pioneering approach. We are working to support 30,000 new apprenticeships in the Civil Service, for both internal and external candidates, between now and 2020. I hope that the new leadership, management and digital apprenticeships we have designed with other employers will make up a substantial part of that.
That said, I was still daunted at the prospect of having to launch brand new, world-class apprenticeships in just a few months. This task was made harder by the fact that, when CSL was asked to develop these new apprenticeships in November 2015, the team was just one person – me.
However, since then, we’ve worked with other government departments, employers, professional bodies and sector skills councils to agree the skills, knowledge and behaviours required to make someone competent in a role. The results are a set of brand new, cutting-edge apprenticeships that any employer can use.
Working at pace
We have launched five apprenticeships in only six months. The average time it takes to get an apprenticeship standard approved is usually 12 months, so we’ve really worked at pace. We had to submit numerous detailed plans, including evidence of how the apprenticeships would be independently assessed, for approval by the apprenticeship standards team in BIS.
The final hurdle was getting a funding cap allocated by the Skills Funding Agency, as the government funds two-thirds of the cost of apprenticeships. The rest is met by employers. It’s quite lengthy, but no-one said it was going to be easy!
The apprenticeships that we have developed in CSL include digital standards in areas such as cyber security and software development, as well as two degree-level apprenticeships – the Chartered Manager Degree Apprenticeship and the Digital and Technology Solutions Degree Apprenticeship. CSL is offering these apprenticeships to departments, for existing and potential civil servants across all grades.
We’ve worked hard with our suppliers, training providers and university partners to develop high-quality training that complements CSL’s curriculum. Our aim is to give apprentices pioneering opportunities to ‘earn and learn,’ regardless of their grade or experience.
But this is just the beginning. We will continue to work with employers to develop standards for apprenticeships as required by industry. So, if you’re in the Civil Service, have a look at our new CSL apprenticeships. It doesn’t matter what grade you are, it’s about your role, or the role you aspire to do.
If you want to carry on earning while gaining a recognised, transferable qualification that will help your professional development, then an apprenticeship could be for you.