Our board member, William Rogers MBE, shares his views of apprenticeships from the perspective of an employer. Read more about William’s backround in business here. 

Learning “on the job” for some people, is simply the best, and most appropriate way to understand what is required of them, as well as to perfect the skills necessary. For this group, being shown how to do something, completely trumps all other forms of learning. That’s why it’s clear to me, that the best university courses of the future will be those that fully embrace industry to give their students real life experience alongside the academic underpinning that classroom teaching provides.

Apprenticehsips, specifically degree apprentceiships, are one such model of on the job training, underpinned by classrom theory that could be embraced by universities in the future.

The belated but welcome commitment to apprenticeships by both the Government and educational establishment presents a real opportunity to facilitate a breadth of learning which combines the best attributes of both structured as well as “on the job” experiences. Through the knowledge they possess and the infrastructure they have, universities could provide considerable support and additional value to the advancement of the apprenticeship as a public policy objective and much more should be done to accelerate this level of co-operation.

Providing local businesses with some sort of additional core educational support, if required, for those who become apprentices, should be built in as an option to all apprenticeship based business and commercial courses. Affording any individual embarking on such a programme the opportunity to not only practically learn as they go, but also to assist in enhancing the core communication skills, whether reading, writing or presenting themselves as individuals better, could positively impact on the total learning experience and benefit to the employer and employee. Short, flexible and targeted support learning packages could provide an additional turbo charge to the educational value of an apprenticeship scheme, or plan, and bringing both educational and commercial sectors together to maximise the impact of both, could be revolutionary in its impact.

For too long, a perception has existed, that each component part of the delivery of skills and learning that facilitates the ultimate employment of an individual, operates independently of the other. This needs to dramatically change if we are truly going to fulfil the educational aspirations of all young people, irrespective of their background or initial life experiences.

To a large extent, social mobility depends, not only upon the home experiences of young people, but also upon the scale and imagination of those who lead the commercial world and those who educate. Without the effective bringing together of these two essential component parts, not only will the country be less successful and competitive as a nation, but, so too, will the individuals who constitute its workforce.

Employers are increasingly looking to the culture, work ethic and behavioural characteristics of the people they hire, as well as the skills they may be able to deploy. Enhancing all of these further by more imaginatively and effectively combining the commercial input, particularly relating to small to medium sized enterprises, and the educational, may well re-draw the relationships that modern universities have with commerce, as well as those who should benefit from it.


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