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We must celebrate the apprentices who are helping build our future

3 min read

National Apprenticeships Week enables us to spotlight some of the remarkable work being done up and down the country, by apprentices, employers and educators, to equip people of all ages for the workplace of tomorrow.

I have been able to meet many people in my own constituency, who are currently part of an apprenticeship scheme, or whose lives and careers have been influenced by their doing an apprenticeship at the outset of their working lives. These schemes are a proven method of advancing social mobility; people from all backgrounds can aspire to attaining highly skilled and well-paid jobs. From this they can build careers, and their skills make them attractive to employers.

The theme for this year’s National Apprenticeships Week is ‘build the future’. It is worth remembering that apprenticeships are available to people of all ages, and offer a wide menu of qualifications up to degree level. I am immensely impressed by the efforts that have been made by colleges and employers to keep their apprenticeship programmes running during the pandemic. Similarly, some large employers have been sharing their levy funds with the iFr supply chain, to support them.

It is important that the education system takes a leading role in ensuring that those considering which career choices to make, are aware of the opportunities presented by pursuing an apprenticeship. Too often I speak to bright and energetic young apprentices who tell me that they found out about the opportunity by word of mouth, or via a family connection. We cannot build our future economy on such a random basis. I believe that more emphasis should be given, by educators, to apprenticeships as a career option for students and school leavers. I would like to see more schools celebrating how many of their leavers go on into apprenticeships, as well as to University.

“The best way to predict the future is to invent it” and an apprenticeship could be the way to do it.

As Co–Chair of the APPG on Apprenticeships, I am particularly interested in the work of the Ministry of Defence, as the largest provider of apprenticeships in the UK. This has a particular resonance in my constituency, but the defence sector employs people across the UK. It runs separate schemes for the Armed Forces and the Civil Service. The Ministry of Defence takes primary responsibility for training their apprentices, though they subcontract some of this work to other providers.

The apprenticeships are widely recognised for high-quality programmes, with over 90,000 apprenticeships delivered in subjects as diverse as cyber, engineering and healthcare. The three branches of the armed forces run their own apprenticeships programs, with over 22,000 apprenticeships working at any one time across 100 different programmes as part of its commitment to through life development. The APPG on Apprenticeships report on this matter will be published shortly.

This is just one example of the many opportunities which exist in high tech STEM careers, which will help to build the economy of tomorrow. We are, as a country, endeavouring to recover from the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. Part of this involves rebuilding our economy. The world won’t stand still whilst we do this, we have to compete in a globalised economy which is adapting to new technologies, as well as absorbing the lessons learnt during the pandemic.

As we build back from the pandemic, we should make more effort to celebrate the successes of our apprenticeships and the part they are playing in helping to build our future. In the 1960s Alan Kay, one of the early pioneers in the IT industry said: “the best way to predict the future is to invent it” and an apprenticeship could be the way to do it.

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