Is apprenticeship a mechanism to achieve Government education and training targets or a way for firms to meet their skills needs and enculturate someone into an occupation? This question continually cropped up at the UCL Centre for Engineering Education’s first conversation last Monday evening after the two conversation’s provocateurs – Graham Schuhmacher, MBE, and Professor Lorna Unwin, OBE, both well known nationally and internationally for their commitment to apprenticeship – had challenged the conversation’s attendees to rethink the purpose of apprenticeship.
Many of the attendees rapidly engaged with this challenge pointing out that successive government’s obsession with apprenticeships targets had: hollowed out its meaning and value; neglected the important link between apprenticeship and occupation; put too much emphasis on Level 2 without ensuring adequate progression routes are in place; and failed to provide apprentices with the type of support seen as automatic for young people who stay in full-time education. They also discussed the way funding has not sufficiently differentiated between large employers and SMEs.
Despite highlighting these problems, contributors to the conversation also hit a very upbeat and positive note. They recognised that the only way to instigate fresh thinking about apprenticeship is to focus on the way in which apprenticeship facilitates skill development in different work environments, because this is what makes the difference for apprentices and employers.
The conversation concluded therefore by leaving the CEE with the challenge of taking the above agenda forward. Watch the CEE website for news about this development.
-Prof. David Guile, Co-Director of the UCL Centre for Engineering Education