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ViewPoint: Driving the Quality Improvement Agenda in #APPRENTICESHIPS
October 14, 2019
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The following article is by Louise Doyle, director of Mesma.

Analysis of Ofsted inspections for apprenticeship provision indicates we still have some way to go to ensure we are getting the basics right – regardless of a new inspection framework says Louise Doyle, director of Mesma.

An examination of the latest Ofsted full inspection reports (April – August 2019) reveals several interesting themes. In summary, the profile for apprenticeships delivered by colleges reveals 8 out of 10 received a grade 3 or below. The same applies for 17 of the 26 independent training providers or employer providers.

Louise Doyle, director of Mesma
Louise Doyle, director of Mesma

Under the reports’ leadership section, we are seeing an ambitious vision as a factor among those providers who are achieving good inspections – supported by leaders prepared to take decisive steps to facilitate change where needed. So far; so good.

However, where leadership is struggling, we can see some common threads: weak governance and external scrutiny having a recurring impact. We see leaders who are slow to bring about improvement where there are lower grades and a lack of quality assurance, including inaccurate self-assessment, improvement planning and ineffective use of data. Poor sub-contractor management is clearly evident in those providers judged to be inadequate.

Poor quality progress reviews, a lack of engagement between the employer, the trainer and the trainee feature in the majority of college’s receiving grade three and four for apprenticeship delivery.

It would be remiss of me not to mention the red flag of the moment; not using information gathered at the learner’s start point to inform the program in knowledge, skills and behaviours, and maths and English which is mentioned often. What I will continue to warn against is the risk that a basic check undertaken prior to an apprentice joining the programme to satisfy funding requirements will suffice ‘initial assessment’.

It reminds me of the days when the completion of learning styles questionnaires was routine yet served no meaningful purpose for students. I recall some heated debates with a previous senior leader I reported into about why we shouldn’t be doing them because they were pointless. I’m glad the research now backs this up. I hope he’s seen it.

When it comes to quality of education, learners receiving good teaching, learning and assessment and support to improve those areas where things are going well. Good assessment practice, targets and feedback are features of those higher-grade reports.

However, issues around consistency still prevail. Weakness of assessment practice, target setting and feedback feature year after year as issues we need to address to improve the quality of provision. The impact of poorly delivered English and Maths features frequently when the grades are lower which won’t be a surprise to any of us.

Bucking the trend

Turning to HE institutions, our universities appear to be bucking the trend that ITPs and FE colleges are experiencing in terms of grade profile. All but 1 of the 9 HEIs inspected were graded as ‘Good’. It is to be applauded that many university senior leaders have been able to clearly articulate the importance of apprenticeships to widening participation and strategic direction more generally.

However, it’s not all sunshine and light because we are seeing some elements of HE senior leadership also failing to have sufficient oversight of quality management.

I don’t think I’m being unfair in stating that some of this success is due to the high volumes of programmes being delivered in the health service, where supervision of new staff is part of the employer’s fabric. This isn’t a criticism; it’s evidence of the important role employers play in driving quality apprenticeship delivery.

Looking at the Ofsted reports also reminds us why providers should quality assure their quality assurance systems to ensure they are doing what you need them to do. Sometimes, it seems like there’s so much quality assurance activity going on that we’re patting ourselves on the back because we do it, rather than reflecting on whether that particular process has an impact. If you do it, how do you use the data to drive improvement? If it doesn’t, why do it? Our clients are often surprised at our quest to strip back their QA rather than pad it out.

So, regardless of the changes being brought in by the new Ofsted framework, it’s clear that there are still some fundamental basics that can be improved to drive improvement across the spectrum. As our colleagues at Ofsted have themselves said, this is not about dancing to the tune of a new framework. Yes, let’s understand the new process of inspection but it doesn’t really change what a good apprenticeship looks like does it?

ViewPoint: Want More School Leavers to Choose Apprenticeships after GCSEs? We Need to See a Genuine Shift in Careers Advice
September 17, 2019
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The following is by Emma Finamore, Editor, AllAboutSchoolLeavers.co.uk

During GCSE results day 2019, some figures in business made it clear they want to see more 16-year-olds making the move to apprenticeships rather than A-levels.

“We need to see more young people choosing vocational pathways,” said Andrea Bull, head next generation marketing at Make UK, in a statement hoping to encourage those awaiting GCSE results to consider apprenticeship programmes.

Mike Cherry, national chairman of The Federation of Small Businesses, also highlighted how remaining on the purely academic route isn’t right for all GCSE students, saying:

“Each year pupils will make critical decisions about how they intend to further their education, which for some will mean going onto study A-levels. But while that may suit some pupils entering Sixth Form, it doesn’t help others who may thrive far better elsewhere.”

There was also plenty of talk of the increasing exam pressure young people face, further making the case that for many, moving to a different form of education and training would be beneficial rather than staying on the ‘classrooms and exams’ track of A-levels.

The National Education Union, for example, polled more than 600 members who taught GCSE subjects in England. More than seven out of 10 said their students’ mental health had worsened since new exams were introduced.

The Girlguiding charity reveal the results of its 2019 Girls’ Attitudes Survey on the eve of GCSE results dayIt showed that the majority of girls worry poor exam grades will ruin their future opportunities in life. More than half of girls (52%) say exam pressures affect how happy they are, yet four in five say they don’t get the support they need to manage exam-related stress.

Meanwhile, Childline revealed there were 1,141 counselling sessions delivered to children and teenagers in 2018 to 2019, an increasing by more than 50% since 2014 to 2015 – a fifth of these therapy sessions took place in August, when students receive GCSE and A-level results.

Megan, 17, a spokesperson for Girlguiding, said:

“I know this feeling all too well; I sat my GCSEs last year and I spiralled under the stress. I would often cry myself to sleep, choosing between showering or taking another practice test for physics.”

Despite the difficulty many young people experience under an exam-based system like GCSEs, and the need for more 16-year-olds to take up apprenticeships, the majority of those going on to take Level 3 qualifications (about three in five) are doing so via A-levels rather than moving on to a different form of training and education.

To see a genuine shift in careers advice, everyone needs to be on board

In the whole of the Guardian’s live report of GCSE results day, for example, there was just one mention of a 16-year-old school leaver going on to an apprenticeship.

This anecdotal reporting plays out in the statistics too. While 82% more people aged 25 and above are now doing higher-level apprenticeships at Level 4 and above, apprenticeship starts for 16- to-18-year-olds continue to fall, and Level 2 starts (one of the key levels for those leaving school after GCSEs) have dropped by more than 50% since the apprenticeship reforms were introduced in May 2017.

It seems doubtful – given the stress and angst the system clearly causes for many – that 16-year-olds are so excited about another two years of classroom learning and exams they won’t consider any other option.

What seems more likely is that the people who matter – parents, schools and employers – aren’t promoting apprenticeships as a post-GCSE option as best they could.

This could start earlier in the classroom: Talking about GCSE results as a potential bridge to Level 2 and 3 apprenticeships as well as A-levels and jobs from the word go, rather than later in the process; explaining how a Level 2 apprenticeship could now lead to Levels 3, 4 and above, all with a salary; the job prospects and employability of apprentices (with their hands-on work experience) compared to young people who only have exam results under their belts.

Teachers could be promoting the advantages of Level 2 and 3 apprenticeships to parents too, again early on in their children’s education, and presented as an equal to the option of A-levels. But they can only do this if they’re sufficiently knowledgeable about these advantages, and about the range of Level 2 and 3 apprenticeships on offer.

Employers could help them – and help themselves secure the interest of students considering leaving school after GCSEs – do this by engaging with schools earlier.

The School Leaver Conference is just one way that employers and education professionals can come together to improve their knowledge and awareness of the early careers landscape, and foster new relationships and existing partnerships. If we want more young people to see the value of options other than A-levels, we must try harder.

Stewart Milne Group Cements its Support oF Apprenticeships with its Latest In-take
September 16, 2019
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An Apprenticeship Case Study.

Stewart Milne Group has recruited a further 12 new apprentices to meet demand across its developments in Scotland.

Stewart Milne Group cements its support of apprenticeships with its latest in-take
Stewart Milne Group

The independent home builder and timber systems manufacturer now boasts 44 apprentices across the business at various stages in their career, reinforcing their commitment to apprenticeships as a way of attracting young people into the sector and offering them the opportunity to build attractive careers in construction.

The new apprentices, who will work in a variety of trades such as joinery, bricklaying, plumbing and painting, will undergo a four-year programme to gain the skills and experience needed to develop an exciting career in a sector which continues to face skills shortages.

As a result of this looming skills gap, construction apprenticeships are some of the most popular and competitive and the modern apprenticeships at Stewart Milne Group offer individuals a chance to join an award-winning team, with scope to build a long-lasting career.

Having been involved in apprenticeship schemes for almost 40 years, Stewart Milne Group now has many former apprentices in senior roles across, including heads of departments and even directors. 

Stewart Dalgarno, director of product development began his apprenticeship at Stewart Milne Homes 35 years ago. He said, “The apprenticeship scheme at Stewart Milne Group is an excellent pathway for those aiming to pursue a career in the construction sector. Year on year the company equip apprentices with the experience and knowledge to thrive within one of the UK’s largest housebuilders.

“Through hard work, and with support from the company, I was appointed a director before I was 30 and then relocated to England to take up the post of managing director of Stewart Milne Timber Systems.

“At Stewart Milne, we believe there is no wrong path and are very proud of our culture that has no limits on personal development. As our employees progress, there are opportunities and tools available to help them build a successful and rewarding career. This includes our internal and award-winning leadership programmes as well as fast track initiatives and MA degrees and certifications.”   

Looking to kickstart their careers at Stewart Milne’s Homes North division are apprentices Jamie Elliot, Jamie Cargill, Connor Leisk, Ryan Cruickshank, Nathan Stephen and Ryan Maclsaac.

A further six apprentices are due to start in Central Scotland later this month.

They will work on a variety of new developments across North and Central Scotland, with a range of trusted and expert Stewart Milne Group sub-contractors. 

New apprentice bricklayer Jamie Elliot said: “I am very excited to get started and take my first steps in the construction sector with Stewart Milne Group. The apprenticeship scheme is a great opportunity to develop a range of technical and practical skills, as well as offering job security for the future. 

“The apprenticeship scheme does not only equip you with vital skills for pursuing a career in construction, but also offers the chance to progress through the company.

“Having heard of many others who have progressed from apprentices to senior roles, I’m looking to achieve every success at Stewart Milne Group through a combination of hard work and determination.”

Apprenticeships with Stewart Milne Group involve training on-site and at college during the first three years, giving an apprentice a balance of technical and practical skills. Trade apprentices then complete their fourth year on site.

The 44 apprentices, at various stages in their apprenticeships, including civil engineers, quantity surveyors and architectural technicians, represent around 5% of Stewart Milne Group’s total workforce and the new recruits will join and learn from this supportive community.

Case Study: Management and Leadership Qualifications Help Boost Efficiency at NHS Trust
September 13, 2019
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Management staff at a London NHS Trust have been taking advantage of a successful training and development partnership between London South East Colleges and Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust where the training of staff, particularly in the area of operations and departmental management, is highly important.

Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust is responsible for University Hospital Lewisham, Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Greenwich, and a range of community health services in Lewisham. Its vision is ‘to work together to provide high quality care for every patient, every day’.

For over seven years, the Trust has employed the services provided by London South East Colleges for the training and development of staff from a wide spectrum of management roles including clinical and administrative.

Ranjan Pattni is the Trust’s Apprenticeship Lead and responsible for supporting staff in training and development via the apprenticeship route. She Says:

“Each year we offer our staff the opportunity to apply for the Operations and Department Management CIM Level 5 Diploma which covers strategic planning, budgeting and finance, managing people and processes, leadership, managing change, decision-making, communications and building relationships with staff, patients and their families. It is a two-year course in which each candidate is required to pass six units. Needless to say, this is not easy, especially while balancing work, study and family life.

“This leadership and management training is a mix of bi-weekly lectures and assessments, distance learning and assignment-led projects – it works well for the majority of learners. A dedicated tutor from the College is always on hand to support and guide them through their studies.

“These courses help staff in their day-to-day roles, as well as enabling them to build their skill sets and progress their careers.”

Jean Firaza, 28, is a Ward Manager at Queen Elizabeth Hospital. She was promoted from senior staff nurse last year to work on two new wards. Jean says:

“All of a sudden, I was operating within a network of new people and my responsibilities pretty much tripled overnight. Though a lot of these were dependent on my general aptitude and previous experience, I recognised immediately that I needed more training – particularly dealing with challenging behaviour, introducing new working patterns and resources and embracing change.

“I started this course in November 2018 and within weeks I was learning about leading and organising a team (I have a team of 25 staff members associated with my ward). I’m enabling my team to become more self-sufficient and familiar with new systems and structures, creating a calm and composed working environment and a safe, comfortable and hygienic recovery space for patients. It’s also helped having a superb manager who has supported me in this training, regularly highlighting all the positive changes he’s noticed in me since I started the course.”

Maureen Ekhuemelo, 37, is a Senior Staff Nurse at Queen Elizabeth Hospital’s endoscopy unit and is responsible for ensuring clinical excellence and close cooperation with staff specialising in various disciplines. Maureen says: 

“At present I am a team leader and need to boost my confidence by learning more people-related skills. Our tutor, Badar, has such a broad knowledge of management techniques and principles that are common to all sectors. As well as learning the core fundamentals of each unit, we pick up even more with practical exercises and simulated activities that allow you to put what you have learnt into practice.

“The course has really helped me think on my feet a lot quicker, as well as learn how to solve complex problems or remove difficult obstacles by simply approaching them from different perspectives. It’s helped me to shine new light on dilemmas and complications that can arise during a typical shift in my unit and has empowered me to become more assertive and confident. It is a very good course and I’m so pleased that I decided to take it when I did.”

ViewPoint: Why Doesn’t the Skills Sector get the Importance of Management Skills?
September 11, 2019
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By Mandy Crawford-Lee, Director of Policy and Operations, University Vocational Awards Council.

It seems that every few months a survey is published on the UK’s low productivity together with an analysis of why poor management skills provide part of the explanation for the UK’s productivity gap.

Mandy Crawford-Lee

This August it was the turn of Lloyds Bank with a survey of large manufacturers.

Commenting on the survey in The Times, Lloyds Bank’s head of manufacturing Steve Harris stated:

‘Large manufacturers are being brutally honest about the skills shortage affecting their sector and are highlighting that the problem is most pronounced at management levels.’

He went on to say: ‘Most experts agree good management is key to improving productivity. It is clear the sector needs to invest in up-skilling the next generation of managers now.’

DfE, the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education (IFATE), the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) and Ofsted should take note of this report – the health of our manufacturing sector is vital to the well being of the UK economy.

The Apprenticeship levy was, of course, introduced as a productivity tax, designed to compel employers to invest more in the training and development of their employees to raise productivity.

Management Apprenticeships, such as the Chartered Manager Degree Apprenticeship and Senior Leader Degree Apprenticeship are being used very successfully by UK manufacturers across sectors as diverse as automotive, aerospace, rail, informatics, food & drink, construction/civil engineering, electronics, oil & gas and defence to raise skills levels and productivity.  So good news and something to be celebrated? Not apparently to some in the so-called skills sector.

The schools and further education inspectorate, Ofsted has, for example, been clear in its view that the Senior Leader Degree Apprenticeship doesn’t need levy funding. A rather bizarre position given Lloyds Bank’s findings on the need to enhance management skills, which echoes points made in a range of other reports including the Government’s own Industrial Strategy and the position of the Bank of England. Enhancing management skills is fundamental to raising productivity and Apprenticeship is first and foremost a productivity programme. When using management apprenticeships employers are doing exactly what Government has asked them to do: that is develop and use the Apprenticeships their businesses need to raise productivity. So what doesn’t Ofsted get?

Employers paying to rectify a deficiency of the schools’ sector

The response is usually that Apprenticeship should be prioritised for young people, particularly those who don’t achieve a full level 2. But shouldn’t employers have a right to expect the schools’ system and Ofsted to ensure young people achieve a level 2 qualification after 11 years of compulsory education? While no one would deny the need to support young people, it seems inappropriate for Ofsted to argue that a hypothecated productivity tax imposed on employers, the Apprenticeship levy, should be used to fund training programmes to rectify a deficiency of the schools’ sector. After all, doesn’t Ofsted have some responsibility for school standards and performance?

Many in the skills sector have also opposed the growth of management apprenticeships. Some going so far as to argue that level 6 and 7 Apprenticeships shouldn’t be funded by the Apprenticeship levy. Such an argument is, of course, nonsense. If the Apprenticeship levy is about productivity then employers should be able to use it where they need to, regardless of level, to raise productivity. I don’t doubt there are some skills shortage areas in the UK economy at level 2, but if we’re about using Apprenticeship to develop a high skill, high productivity economy provision will increasingly be focused on level 3 – 7, including Management Apprenticeships.

I hope the Treasury, DfE and IfATE take note of the Lloyds Bank report, get behind our large manufacturers and support the use of management apprenticeships to raise skills levels, productivity and UK prosperity. UVAC will be supporting providers deliver the Management Apprenticeships our large manufacturers need. We hope others in the skills sector will do likewise.

Mandy Crawford-Lee, Director of Policy and Operations, University Vocational Awards Council

Webinar: Apprenticeship Programmes – How to Generate Stakeholder Buy-In in Your Large organisation
September 2, 2019
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During this webinar, you will hear from Strategic Commercial Manager Paula Gibson and Stakeholder Partnerships and Policy Manager Bryony Kingsland on how to generate internal stakeholder buy-in in your large organisation.

Date: Thursday, September 5th, 2019 11:00 AM – 12:00 PM BST

Topics cover how to:

  • get buy-in from your stakeholders
  • demonstrate the return on investment with a case study on Scottish Power
  • overcome internal barriers including key messaging for the 20% off-the-job learning
  • plus a Q&A session at the end.

To register, follow the link below.

https://bit.ly/30Mn5dT

Employer Guide to Apprenticeships
August 9, 2019
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Wave of Companies Join Apprenticeship Register.

A wave of organisations have been added to the refreshed register of apprenticeship training providers, while nearly 20 have been removed – in its first major update in almost 12 months.

Forty three additional providers have been allowed on by the Education and Skills Funding Agency, including 25 main providers, 14 supporting and four employers.

Nineteen providers, meanwhile, have been removed from the register, most of which were main providers.

Eleven have changed from being main providers to being supporting, so they can only work as subcontractors; and two have made the opposite journey.

This update follows a year-long review, started in October 2017, that led to new “stringent and challenging entry requirements” for the register.

These requirements were brought in by the ESFA after FE Week uncovered instances where companies run by their sole director from their home address were being given access to millions in apprenticeship funding, despite having zero experience of delivering government-funded programmes.

Analysis by this publication in December found that almost a third (580) of providers on the register did not deliver any apprenticeships in 2017.

But under this stricter regime, applicants had to have been trading for 12 months at least in order to be eligible, and provide a full set of accounts to be on the register.

Subcontractors delivering less than £100,000 of provision a year also needed to register.

Additionally, the agency will throw providers off the register if they go 12 months with no delivery after joining the register.

Getting onto the register, then, will be a relief for many providers, especially after most were left hanging by the government for months following their applications in December.

This is despite the ESFA planning to tell providers if they have been successful 12 weeks after their bid.

Since October 2018, only 23 other companies have been added to the register – all of whom were supporting providers.

The full list of new providers is below:

Apprenticeship Funding Rules
July 30, 2019
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The ESFA had published the 2019 to 2020 apprenticeship funding rules following feedback from the clarification exercise.

The changes they have made are set out in the summary of changes which can be found using the link below:

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/apprenticeship-funding-rules) gov.uk/guidance/appre…

Update from GOV.UK – £20m Funding to Help 10,000 Young People into NHS Careers
July 25, 2019
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The Health and Social Care Secretary has announced £20 million funding to support 10,000 young people from all backgrounds to get an entry level job or apprenticeship in the NHS. This will be matched by £7 million from the Prince’s Trust.

The 3-year pre-employment programme will begin later this year and will involve up to 150 NHS trusts in England. Participants will gain basic skills and experience of working in the NHS. The programme will focus on helping those who otherwise may not have the opportunity to gain this experience to overcome barriers and enter sustainable employment.

The programme will provide:

  • job application support
  • NHS trust work placements
  • courses in basic healthcare, literacy and numeracy skills
Young hospital receptionist speaking to a patient

It is expected to help 5,000 young people get into the NHS through entrylevel positions, with a further 5,000 joining through apprenticeships. Roles will include digital and business administration, healthcare assistant, facilities, catering and portering.

The programme will be delivered by The Prince’s Trust and supported by Health Education England (HEE). HEE has already worked in partnership with The Prince’s Trust to run 250 pre-employment programmes, helping over 1,000 young people find work in healthcare across the country.

Nick Stace, UK Chief Executive, The Prince’s Trust, said:

Each year, The Prince’s Trust supports thousands of young people across the country to develop the confidence and skills they need to get a job – with our ‘Get into Healthcare’ programme we help young people to take their first step into employment with the NHS.

We are delighted that through this enhanced partnership we will give thousands more young people across the country exciting job opportunities. Placing young people into frontline roles at the heart of our National Health Service will empower them to realise their potential, kick start their careers and make a valuable contribution to our society.

We believe that when young people succeed, our country succeeds and this is a great example of what that can mean in reality.