One the best bits of my job is hearing and seeing first-hand from employers up and down the country how apprenticeships have helped their businesses to grow and how they have transformed the lives of the people taking up the opportunities apprenticeships offer.
Whether it’s a young person looking at their next steps, an older person upskilling, someone who is looking to get back into the job market or looking for a career change an apprenticeship is a brilliant opportunity.
Apprenticeships offer people the chance to earn while learning and give the option to train at every level right up to degree and masters level in a huge range of professions from cyber security to fashion. And they’re brilliant for business too.
Employers have reported benefits such as improved productivity, improved product or service quality, improved retention of staff, as well as the new ideas apprentices bring to their organisation. Employers talk about their apprentices as a ‘breath of fresh air’ bringing passion and enthusiasm into the workplace.
It’s great that employers across Cumbria are also recognising the benefits they are bringing to their workplaces, with over 4,500 people starting an apprenticeship in 2017/18.
But what makes me most proud about the changes we brought is improved quality of apprenticeships. In the past, apprenticeships were too short, with too little off-the-job training.
Apprentices weren’t learning the skills they needed. That’s why we have made it a priority to make sure they are fit for employers and learners. Apprenticeships are now longer, higher-quality, with more off-the-job training and a proper assessment at the end.
There are now over 390 of our new higher quality apprenticeship standards available, in industries ranging from nuclear engineering to digital marketing. The number of people starting on our new style apprenticeships has risen by 139,100 compared to last year – a sure sign of the improving quality.
But we’re not resting on our laurels. Our reforms were designed and driven by employers and we want to be sure standards remain high. The Institute of Apprenticeships has built a network of over 100 industry leaders across 15 sectors to make sure apprentices are job-ready.
All these changes make it a real joy to talk about and promote apprenticeships, and that’s why we have created an apprenticeship ambassador programme to help make sure people know how great apprenticeships are. Trudy Harrison, MP for Copeland is working with us to make sure apprenticeships are truly open to everyone.
I am extremely excited about this’s year National Apprenticeships Week, which will run from 4-8 March. We will be highlighting some of the amazing benefits of apprenticeships to employers, individuals, local communities and the economy. ‘Blazing a Trail’ is the theme, as that’s exactly what employers and apprentices are doing across the country.
Last year was record breaking, over 780 events took place across England. This year, I hope to inspire more people to start an apprenticeship and more businesses to invest in their apprenticeship programmes.
I am very proud of the progress we have made, but there is still more to do. I’m calling on businesses and people in Cumbria to consider starting an apprenticeship or taking on an apprentice; they’re good for everyone, improve businesses, help business expand and change people’s lives.
So, do please take a look at our new website www.apprenticeships.gov.uk it provides lots of helpful advice and you can find out about all the great apprenticeship opportunities available across Cumbria.
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