‘Nurture talent pipelines by giving apprenticeships parity of opportunity’

Posted on by karen.smith

English | Cymraeg

A director of the National Training Federation for Wales has urged the Welsh Government to “nurture talent pipelines” by adopting a parity of opportunity policy and offering long-term incentives for employers to fully embrace apprenticeships.

Managers with Apprentice sitting at her desk

Left-right: Roger Newman, Target Group CEO, Grant Santos and Paige Nurden, apprentice at Target Group with MP Jayne Bryant

Grant Santos, who is also chief executive of work-based learning provider Educ8 Group, says the process of realising the potential of apprenticeships begins in schools, with teachers and careers advisers understanding and explaining the full menu of career pathway options available to pupils.

“How good can we be if we fully embrace all the possibilities of apprenticeship provision? The potential is almost endless,” he says.

“Every student and pupil ought to be excited to explore each option with an open mind, choosing the pathway that’s right for them. If they did that, I know that demand for apprenticeships would go up. Employers and the Welsh Government would then offer exponentially more support and create a self-perpetuating success story that’s sustainable and good for everyone.

“We would see everyone, from employers and employees to communities and the economy, have the chance to be the best they can be.”

Mr Santos made the comments in the latest Talent Leaders Talking series with Cardiff Capital Region when he discussed the role apprenticeships could play in the future skills of South East Wales.

He notes that less than 20% of employers in the Cardiff Capital Region currently engage with apprenticeships and wonders if there is a misconception that an apprenticeship is of lesser value to a degree.

“We simply have to stop thinking that way, not least because you can do both. Starting as an apprentice and when the time is right, progressing to a degree,” he says.

“There are even many learners who study a degree and then upskill with an apprenticeship afterwards. All forms of education are valuable and should be equally celebrated.”

Mr Santos, who followed the apprenticeship route himself before studying for a degree, says Higher Apprenticeships at Levels 4 and 5 have increased significantly.
As the Cyber, Fintech and MedTech sectors have evolved, so too have flexible apprenticeships.

He welcomed the Welsh Government’s emphasis on all-age apprenticeships and the commitment to the Youth Guarantee for 18-24 year olds. However, he fears there is still a misconception that apprenticeships are just for school leavers, whereas in reality employees use them to enhance their skills, knowledge and career prospects.

“It’s difficult to overestimate the value of the learning experience gained through an apprenticeship,” he adds. “You learn on the job and everything makes sense because the learning reflects your working reality.

“Besides learning from experienced people, you get paid while you learn, which can’t be overlooked given the rising levels of debt, university student loans and spiralling costs of living in our society.”

To ensure that apprenticeships are as inclusive as possible, he says people must be helped to grasp opportunities from Foundation Apprenticeships (Level 2) upwards. He welcomed the Welsh Government’s commitment to create 125,000 all-age apprenticeships during the current Senedd term – a 25% increase.

“Foundation Apprenticeships are particularly important to build the talent pipelines we need for social care and the health sector,” he emphasises. “These are jobs that bring dignity to millions of people who need care and very often change the lives of the people who train to do the work.”

Whilst the digital delivery of apprenticeships increased during the pandemic, Mr Santos supports a hybrid approach to learning, considering face-to-face training, one-to-one sessions and group workshops as “crucial”.

“The next few years will be about getting the hybrid blend exactly right: understanding the full capabilities of technology, listening to both our learners and customer organisations about what’s best for them.

“We understand where their businesses are going, their main challenges for the next 12 months and how we can best support them. That means being a genuine learning partner.

“What are the things holding them back? What do they want to get from the programmes? How can we tweak and modify an apprenticeship so that it adds a competitive advantage to them? If we get it right, it’s transformational.”

Educ8 Training

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