The response of research-intensive universities to the changing face of Apprenticeship delivery, was the theme of my presentation at a recent dinner discussion hosted by the Industry and Parliamentary Trust. The dinner was attended by Peers and MPs, employers and Apprenticeship Providers and current Apprentices, who each shared their perspective on the development and sustainability of recent Apprenticeship reforms.
In my speech I argued that whilst research intensive Higher Education Institutions (HEI) like Lancaster University are unlikely to become major players in the Apprenticeship landscape, they can, and must, play their part through teaming with other providers to offer a portfolio of levy-funded education, skills and training that is genuinely responsive to local need.
In recent years the twin pressures of internationalisation and an emphasis on undergraduate recruitment has squeezed the so-called ‘third mission’ of Universities – that of regional engagement. Through the Apprenticeship programme, HEI now have an opportunity to reconnect locally, building collaborative partnerships with schools, colleges, employers and other providers to meet demand for apprenticeships in regionally important private sector growth areas and public sector services.
A consortial portfolio of level 2 to level 7 apprenticeship courses can provide learners with a vocational pipeline through to higher education, without the need for them to choose between work and study, or uproot from their local communities. This has the potential to impact positively on social mobility, arrest the regional talent drain, and support economic growth. Relationships initiated between universities and employers to support apprentices can spark into research partnerships and commercial ventures that benefit both.
I concluded by anticipating that, as Universities gain experience in work-based learning through supporting apprenticeships, key curriculum design features such as flexible study, applied assessment, workplace mentoring, and recognition of prior learning would become more mainstream. This will have the effect of supporting students on both apprenticeship and non-apprenticeship pathways to develop the skills they need to succeed in the labour market.
Dr Debbie Simpson, Director of Post-Experience Programmes, Lancaster University
The view of the apprentices
“I started my career with TUI at the age of 16 after deciding the traditional education route was not for me. I had a strong drive to be in the workplace and knew that I wanted to continue learning but just not in a classroom environment. I undertook a 2-year apprenticeship in travel services and business alongside working as a travel advisor in a TUI retail shop.
I had expressed an interest in further learning after I had finished the apprenticeship to my assessor, so when the TUI Degree programme was announced she got in touch to tell me about it. I knew I wanted to progress within the company that I had quickly gotten quite attached too, and this was the perfect opportunity.
The programme allows me to experience four different key business areas over four years whilst attending the University of Hertfordshire alongside. So far, I have completed a year in an analyst role within the airline and am now 4 months into my second role in Digital Marketing working as a Search Engine Optimisation Specialist. The rotational programme gives me the opportunity to work in parts of the business I would not have been able to work in without prior experience in that specific field, so I am gaining invaluable knowledge that I could only gain from being on this apprenticeship programme.
I attend University 4 times a year for a block week of interactive lectures. During these learning weeks we are mainly taught academic theory from the University lecturers, but also have TUI sponsors attend the University to relate the theory learnt back to our business model at TUI. The sponsors that attend the University will usually be General managers and board members so we are able to learn from the best in the business.
The aim of the programme is to grow future leaders so getting face time with board members and senior leaders who have progressed to that level in the company is really motivating.”
Jess Garner, TUI
“I’m currently doing a Mechatronics technician apprenticeship, or, in more simple terms, an electrical mechanical engineering apprenticeship. My apprenticeship is over 4 years and I am currently in my second year. I started my first year full time at college doing courses specifically asked for by my employers, Heineken UK.
The first year was a Level 2 NVQ (National Vocational Qualification) leading into a Level 3 NVQ during my second year. For my third and fourth years I will be going through a HNC course (Higher National Certificate). Personally, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do when I left secondary school and I was never really a person to sit behind a desk and do work. I’ve always been hands on, so when I found out about apprenticeships I was immediately interested and I believe it is one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life so far, being able to ‘earn as you learn’.
I would recommend an apprenticeship to anyone looking for work but still wanting an education alongside.”
Pierre Oosthuizen, Heineken UK