Much has been written around the merits and challenges of apprenticeships, both nationally and within our own sector. Whilst there are many discussions at the national level around aspects such as the impact of the Apprenticeship Levy, it is important not to lose sight of the core purpose and value of apprenticeships.
The February issue of QM covered the need for encouraging and supporting new talent within our industry, and the crucial role that apprenticeships can play. Like many other industries, we face a changing and evolving workplace with rapid progression in areas such as technology, automation and the need to develop leadership skills at all levels. Finding and developing competent people in a range of diverse areas creates many challenges, as well as opportunities.
We need to support core technical skills to ensure our operations run efficiently and address priorities such as health and safety, the environment and sustainability. At the same time, promoting opportunities requiring new skills and competencies provides our sector with the chance to challenge entrenched perceptions of the industry.
Apprenticeship programmes provide routes into and through the industry to the very highest levels. Like many of us enjoying successful careers in quarrying, Martin Riley, senior vice-president at Tarmac, started out as an apprentice. Martin’s story is proof of the firm foundations that apprenticeships provide.
At the University of Derby we see individuals following a clear pathway through apprenticeships and foundation degrees to the Honours degree programme.
The flexibility of the apprenticeship route has two distinct benefits; first, it can help support the existing workforce, not just those at the start of their careers. Secondly, apprentices themselves are prepared in the basics of learning as you work, meaning they are more likely to be able to continually up-skill throughout their careers in order to respond to the changing context of their workplace.
One of the most important elements that apprenticeships provide is that of confidence. For those that have progressed through the schemes to those teaching or employing them, a common theme is how the schemes develop learners’ confidence. Being able to take concepts from the classroom and apply them within their own real-world employment builds the confidence to test theory, and for employers, can help bring new ideas into the workplace.
As a professional membership body the IQ requires members to demonstrate their Continuing Professional Development (CPD) as part of their commitment to lifelong learning. The process of maintaining and recording CPD can be daunting for some. The apprenticeship route provides a strong foundation and structure to learning that can be carried throughout members’ careers.
As an Institute, we have always shown leadership in developing and supporting learning for the profession, from the creation of our initial exams through to the Doncaster Assisted Private Study (DAPS) course. Looking to the future, we will continue to support the industry and the individuals within it, working with partners to encourage and develop the talent needed to support our sector, both here and on the global stage.