rime Minister Boris Johnson delivered a speech at Exeter College yesterday outlining his Government’s vision for a £2.5 billion ‘Lifetime Skills Guarantee’ – essentially a series of measures to increase flexibility when it comes to skills and retraining. While COVID-19 loomed large over the announcements, the Prime Minister stressed the point that he was addressing long-term structural issues.
There’s a lot to potentially be excited about in yesterday’s announcements, although as is now so often the case we need to wait for additional details. However, the takeaways from my perspective were the announcement of fully transferrable apprenticeships between companies and expanding take-up of apprentices by SMEs. Both excellent ideas, which we have long championed at TAC, which could prove to be hugely attractive to employers in our sector.
Transferrable apprenticeships could mean an apprentice being portable, working on a specific project or programme for a smaller company, before moving on to work with another. It could also allow for apprentices to develop a portfolio of practical work experience within our industry which, would be hugely attractive to both apprentices and employers.
How this will be monitored and delivered does raise some questions and we will need to develop the mechanisms to enable apprentices to move smoothly between employers – I’ve seen lengthy contracts with pages and pages to enable employers and apprentices to do just that – but this has the potential to become an excellent set of proposals to reinvigorate apprenticeships for both students and employers alike.
In practice, expanding take-up by SMEs means more funding for smaller employers to work with apprentices and potentially greater flexibility in how training is structured. This is especially important for construction where there are more varied employment patterns. However, employers will ultimately be led by the bottom-line and SME’s, including many of EIC’s members who are starting-up in new environmental markets, will now be able to seriously consider working with an apprentice for perhaps the first time.
The rest of the skills guarantee was mainly focused on widening access to technical learning. Funded technical courses for adults to gain qualifications (where they have not had them) equivalent to an A level were announced, loans were expanded which should make it as easy to get a loan for a technical course than it is for an academic course.
The Prime Minister compared the UK to Germany and Canada in his speech where a fifth and a third respectively are technically trained. While these announcements won’t make up for decades of under-investment in our skills overnight, they do at least start to address the issues seriously and put us on a journey to one day being able to positively compare ourselves to the leaders in the field.
Today we’re launching the Lifetime Skills Guarantee, so that everybody can get the skills and training they need to move forward, and so we can build back better. pic.twitter.com/KTAQkOzZOm— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) September 29, 2020
Kimberly Murphy is Apprenticeship and Skills Manager at ACE. Find out more about the Technical Apprenticeship Consortium (TAC).