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Friday Thought – Is Simplicity the Key to Unlocking Apprenticeships in the ‘New’ World?

It is with great interest that I see the Institute for Apprenticeships & Technical Education (IfATE) have given consent for the Public Sector to develop a L2 Organisational Support Assistant Apprenticeship Standard. To me this raises a number of questions as well as the key question ‘what is the ultimate goal of our (English) apprenticeship vision for the future?’

As a starter, why should the Public sector have their own development for a Standard? Where is the inclusivity for all sectors, employers, and people wanting to undertake an apprenticeship? This seems to be working on an uneven playing field for the employers who are not Public sector and for potential candidates not entering into the Public sector, so the overall question here is – is it fair, valid and justifiable for the Public sector to have their own development of Standards? 

As I have opened up a question on fairness, a thought has crossed my mind. Not just because of COVID-19 but because we all will need care and may require care for our relatives, I raise this as I notice that Adult Care (L2) and Lead Adult Care (L3) has a maximum funding band of £3000,  please note the sentence on the IfATE’s website for Lead Adult Care which informs “As a Lead Adult Care Worker you will make a positive difference to someone’s life when they are faced with physical, practical, social, emotional or intellectual challenges”.

To me the lack of funding here goes against the principles of fairness when you contrast this with the Clock Maker Standard at L3 which has a maximum funding band of £21,000, this is seven times the amount for the Adult Care where an apprentice will make a positive difference to someone’s life when they are faced with physical, practical, social, emotional or intellectual challenges. 

As this is a Friday thought article,– does this seem right? Yes, a clock maker will need resources and it is a technical (STEM) vocation, but are we actually saying it is worth seven times more than someone who will make a positive difference to someone’s life? 

I also wonder how many enrolments there will be on the clock maker against the adult care standard during its life cycle. 

I believe we have lost the focus on simplicity of design of provision to serve what is actually needed. I have said for many years that we need to design an apprenticeship for apprenticeship provision, we now have 568 apprenticeship standards approved for delivery, with 95 apprenticeship standards currently in development and 20 apprenticeship standards currently proposals in development, that’s a whopping 683 Standards. Now we add in the ‘Potential Standards’, we are up to a gigantic figure of 738 apprenticeship standards. 

I struggle to comprehend how we can go from employers saying that there are far too many ‘Frameworks’ (circa 490) to having a possible 738 apprenticeship standards. How have we got to this, the figure will of course increase and the explanation to employers / learners around this will be what? And frankly what has been the cost of developing these Standards given the benefits? I would bet not much change out of £100m over the past few years if we add up all the time of employers, consultant costs and the cost of the IFATE and other bodies. 

Now we add in the ESFA’s Apprenticeship Funding Rules, or should I say the vast amount of Rules (Employers, Employer Providers, Training Providers, Levy Transfer, ESFA Contracts, Apprenticeship performance-management rules for training providers for  non-levy procured funding and apprenticeships carry-in funding etc etc), is it any wonder why some providers struggle and why it is getting more and more difficult to explain apprenticeship provision. 

Albert Einstein once said “Simplicity is the Ultimate Sophistication”, to me we need to make the system simple for employers to understand, to allow providers to operate freely to develop programmes for employers needs/requirements and that there can be an easy explanation to all (learners, parents, employers etc). Einstein also said, “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler”, as well as “if you can’t explain it simply you don’t understand it well enough

Taking these quotes into consideration, can we honestly say that we can all explain the full apprenticeship provision simply to an employer or a parent asking? Furthermore, why do we have over 737 apprenticeship standards? 

Where as a sector do we go from here? We need to fully understand the needs of employers and get behind what as a country we need, developing standards for what ‘some’ employers need/want might seem like meeting this requirement, but once developed where are the learners? Where is the commitment from these employers? 

To end, I am of the belief that the current system we operate in (Apprenticeship Provision) is not fit for purpose,  where we are focusing on the true future through a clear strategy of ‘horizon scanning’, as an example: I see that there is the idea of Post nominal letters for Apprentices, as an ex-apprentice I cannot see the point or any benefit in this. It does not add value, and will employers really care, also what are the ground rules? Furthermore, why is a vocational pathway always trying to emulate HE? We have ‘graduation days’, now we are looking to have letters after your name. Through my apprenticeship I achieved Master Craftsman status.

I am all in favour for moving forward, so why isn’t there the use of ‘e’ badges to establish something similar to Master Craftsman. These ‘e’ badges can be linked to success and be badged in a way to show progression. They can be linked to Social Media platforms and truly focus on the future of technology and harmonisation across the globe, where I know other countries are using ‘e’ badges already (and as part of vocational education). 

The badges can be used as a form of micro-credentialing that builds your journey through your ‘lifelong learning’ path, thereby truly focusing on creating a golden thread of lifelong learning that is recognised here and globally by working in partnership with other countries.

We need simplicity linked to future thought thinking, so is simplicity the key to unlocking apprenticeships in the ‘new’ world?

The Promote-Ed Friday thought article is on holiday throughout August and will be back.

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