National Apprenticeship Week, the 10th in the annual series, is here (6 to 10 March) and it promises to be the most exciting one ever.
The last few months have been a whirlwind of activity for anyone working in the world of apprenticeships. And in only three weeks we will see the introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy, which requires all employers with an annual pay bill over £3 million operating in the UK to invest in apprenticeships. For me, this shifts things on again – from ‘exciting’ to ‘revolutionary’.
I truly believe we are on the cusp of something that will be remembered in years to come as the vehicle for social justice and social mobility. The new world of apprenticeships will help us fill skills gaps, help industry get the employees it needs, and truly offer a ladder of opportunity to all.
Apprenticeships will further inspire providers to design world-class, innovative programmes and, most importantly, skill, re-skill and up-skill anyone with the ambition and desire to get involved as an apprentice.
In the Civil Service, we already have some fantastic stories. Last month we launched our recruitment campaign for our latest cohort of Fast Track Apprentices. The Fast Track started in 2013 with 100 opportunities. This National Apprenticeship Week, we will be highlighting the 750 Fast Track positions up for grabs this year, giving applicants the chance to become apprentices and graduate with Level 4 qualifications in key capability areas for the Civil Service, such as commercial, digital and finance.
We also plan to expand our award-winning Surge and Rapid Response Team. Hosted by HMRC, our ‘surgers’ were set up in late 2014. They form a flexible team of apprentices who can quickly support frontline or back-office staff anywhere in government, either in response to an immediate crisis or to help with anticipated surges in demand, such as the annual deadline for renewing tax credits. The team has already been a finalist in the 2016 Brathay Challenge and picked up the Dame Lesley Strathie Operational Excellence Award at the 2016 Civil Service Awards. They’ve also clocked up a fair few miles on their massively exciting and rewarding deployments!
My team and I have been at the centre of this, working across industry to look at what the most critical areas are for skills development both within the Civil Service and across industry. We have been involved in the development of over 20 new apprenticeship standards in areas as diverse as Operations Management, Digital Marketing and Cyber Security. I am particularly proud of our work to develop, expand and promote Degree Apprenticeships – a fantastic opportunity for people to earn and learn whilst working towards a degree.
Strengths and values
The thing I love about apprenticeships is their flexibility. It’s a common misconception that apprenticeships are low level and solely for young people. They are for everyone, and can really drive social mobility, regardless of your age. This resonates with me, as I have never really cared too much about age, experience or grade when looking for employees. I prefer strengths and values. Apprenticeships embrace this approach, and if you have the right attitude, there will be an apprenticeship for you.
I am excited to be with Sue Husband (Director of the Apprenticeships and Delivery Service at the Skills Funding Agency) at the launch of this year’s National Apprenticeship Week. By the time you read this, the launch will have happened and we will be on the road! The theme this year is the fantastic ‘ladder of opportunity’ and we want to show the country (and the world – I’m videoconferencing with the European Alliance for Apprenticeships in Brussels later today) how our apprenticeships help social mobility and inspire people to get on in the world of work.
John Manzoni, Chief Executive of the Civil Service, sums my thoughts up perfectly in his recent blog on our new Apprenticeship Strategy: ‘…apprenticeships are essential to creating the workforce of the future’. I couldn’t agree more.
Wherever you are, I hope that National Apprenticeship Week inspires you to go onwards and – if you so wish – upwards. And in the unlikely event you need any more convincing of the merits of an apprenticeship, our own apprentice Henry Reed will be blogging later this week accompanied by the equally awesome and recently graduated Dani Randall. Make sure you check their stories out.