Apprenticeships can meet many of the challenges thrown up by falling university numbers. John Kerr, Operations Director – DTL.
Many commentators have blamed high tuition fees for a reduction in students applying for university, and concerns have been raised about social mobility. But school leavers give other reasons too, including that they don’t enjoy studying or don’t think they have the necessary academic skills for university.
Apprenticeships have the capability, not just to provide an alternative to university but also to address the wider issues. Operations Director, John Kerr, says: “Instead of racking up student debt, apprentices earn while they learn, and apprenticeships provide other ways of learning for those who aren’t suited to academia. Yes, there is an element of classroom learning but for most of our apprenticeships, the focus is on learning through well-supervised, genuine on-the-job experience.”
Mr Kerr says that apprenticeships can also generate social mobility, even beyond what might be expected from gaining a practical qualification and a well-paid job. He explains: “As an organisation that believes in providing a holistic educational experience, we support many young people who have fallen behind with academic learning.” Crucially, he points out, that includes ensuring that apprentices attain satisfactory levels of literacy and numeracy.
Ensuring students attain a set level of literacy and numeracy is a requirement made of apprenticeship providers by the educational watchdog Ofsted: “Clearly, people who have poor literacy or numeracy, or both, are going to be disadvantaged,” says Mr Kerr. “This is a significant step in giving them social mobility.”
With these crucial core skills and the confidence of having completed an apprenticeship, they might well go on to get a university degree or similar-level qualification, he points out.
Mr Kerr adds: “This is much more than a question of meeting the requirements of the regulator. You can see this in our response to another Ofsted instruction. We have pioneered the introduction of safeguarding, ensuring that young people are safe in the workplace and the training environment.”
DTL’s latest Industry Skills Forum on the subject brought together leading figures in HR in the utilities and construction sector, to discuss safeguarding and the government’s Prevent initiative, which requires education providers to play their part in ensuring young people aren’t recruited into extremism.
But as Mr Kerr sums up: “Our first duty is to the apprentices themselves, and we believe that ensuring their safety is paramount. By also ensuring they have those core literacy and numeracy skills, we add value to the opportunities created by their apprenticeship.”