Managing a national training company brings a great deal of variety to my daily workload.
However, this time of the year many of my hours are spent working on our exhibition stands at the various trade shows we attend.
So in the past few weeks I’ve been at Earls Court for the Restaurant Show, Olympia for the Independent Hoteliers Show, I am writing this article from the Care Show at the NEC Birmingham and of course, we’re back at the NEC for the Skills Show in a matter of days.
Then a break until January, when we’re exhibiting at the Hospitality Show at the NEC again.
All this is on top of the local careers exhibitions and activities our area teams attend throughout the year.
So why do we invest to attend these national trade exhibitions? Firstly, it not only promotes our brand to our chosen industries, but brings us sufficient new employer clients to justify the expense and time.
It gives me the opportunity to listen to what employers say they really need for their own staff development and training.
It also enables me to listen to my own staff ‘sell’ to the employers visiting our stands to ensure they understand the full offer we can deliver and the various funding streams we can access. The bonus for me is the number of total strangers who come onto our stands and say they already use HIT and are exceptionally pleased with the service we provide for them.
But worrying is the level of ignorance among employers about apprenticeships, both in hospitality, but also in the care sector, which is highly regulated with mandatory requirements for training.
The new minister in May needs to plan for a decade of no changes, not loans one minute, then withdrawn when learners vote with their feet, or Functional Skills this week instead of GCSEs last week, grants this week, withdrawn the next
While it is generally accepted that FE providers have been the major force in promoting apprenticeships to employers, government has funded the National Apprenticeship Service (NAS) and a whole range of advertisements, which in the main appear to have failed.
At HIT, we ensure we get value for money from attending these trade shows. How does BIS evaluate the success of their marketing and advertising of apprenticeships and NAS?
Disturbingly, employers we speak to at these trade shows are confused by the continual changes meddling ministers impose on apprenticeship programmes.
Eligibility for funding, lengths of stay, inconsistencies of age grants, etc, confuse employers and their level of knowledge is normally out of date.
No wonder less than 10 per cent of employers bother with apprenticeships when they need to plan for at least three to five years ahead while a minister can change the apprenticeship funding, content and eligibility rules at a moment’s notice.
Again from the Skills Show last year, it was apparent from many of the school pupils visiting our stand that the vast majority were unaware of the existence and potential of apprenticeships. More alarmingly, their teachers were even more ignorant and the parents we spoke to had only vaguely heard of apprenticeships, and had rarely considered it an option for their children.
Hopefully we will now have a period of no changes as we approach the general election. But the new minister in May needs to plan for a decade of no changes, not loans one minute, then withdrawn when learners vote with their feet, or Functional Skills this week instead of GCSEs last week, grants this week, withdrawn the next — that is no way to improve the skill base of the country to grow the economy.
Employers and parents want assurance that the Trailblazer apprenticeships will contain a valid qualification backed by a reputable awarding body, not just a standard agreed by a minority of employers and signed-off by the current minister.
After all, City & Guilds has been creating and approving apprenticeship since mediaeval times, not just the average 18 months the apprenticeship ministers have remained in post.