At the prestigious city headquarters of the Bank of New York last month we presented the first group of 12 managers from Aramark, the incumbent caterer on the BNY (Bank of New York) Mellon site, with their level four hospitality higher apprenticeship certificates.

Andrew Main, the UK chief executive for Aramark, and Jill Whittaker, HIT managing director, made the presentations.

We have been working with Aramark and People 1st to pilot this first cohort of learners on this new higher apprenticeship programme and partnered with University College Birmingham for some of the theoretic input.

HIT has been at the forefront of hospitality management apprenticeships and Aramark already has two further cohorts undertaking this programme. It has been a sharp learning curve for the HIT trainers and assessors involved as well as our local staff who acted as mentors to the individual management apprentices at their sites throughout the country.

The benefits of the programme have already been seen within the company and one of the apprentices was able to use her level four qualification to gain a work permit to take a promotion to Aramark’s head office in America.

From HIT’s point of view, it has enabled us to develop staff with previous hospitality management experience to deliver these higher apprenticeship programmes.

It is another way of retaining and motivating proficient trainer-assessors to utilise their expertise outside of our core level two and three delivery.

As learner numbers increase, we continually require more trainer-assessors but not necessarily more management posts. Therefore to retain the best trainer-assessors without promotion prospects, we need to make their role more interesting and demanding and also provide the opportunity to increase their salary by undertaking higher apprenticeship or specialised trainer-assessor roles.

The government response to encouraging the growth of higher apprenticeships is certainly the way forward, particularly to fill the vacuum left by the polytechnic technician grade vocational programmes

With nearly 300 learners currently on level four hospitality management higher apprenticeship programmes and a further 145 on the level five care and social care leadership higher apprenticeship there is plenty of scope for our trainer-assessors.

The government response to encouraging the growth of higher apprenticeships is certainly the way forward, particularly to fill the vacuum left by the polytechnic technician grade vocational programmes that had almost disappeared with the inappropriate rush to degrees for all.

The bias between academic and vocational learning becomes irrelevant. In fact, the training of airline pilots and doctors with their combination of theory and practical training is an apprenticeship by any other name.

One of the main learning curves for HIT in delivering level four and five higher apprenticeships is the level of ability of learners put forward by their employers for these programmes. If ever initial assessments are needed, then learners who have left education without A-levels or a degree, really need to be screened for their maths, English and IT skills before commencing a higher apprenticeship.

It seems unreal that learners on these higher apprenticeships have ‘special learning needs’ that have been hidden since leaving school.

We must ensure that effective initial assessment is written into all the Trailblazer higher apprenticeship standards and provision for continuous external assessment, as it is unlikely most employers will have the skill set to undertake competence assessment of their own employees at levels four and above throughout the programme.

Similarly, with the constant changes in professional cookery products and cooking techniques, regular revision of the Trailblazer standards needs to be maintained, or the National Occupational Standards maintained and updated and mandated to be the finite skills index for the trailblazer standards.

Finally, we are likely to hear next week, half way through June and halfway through the final quarter of the academic year, if any growth cases have been approved. We will have just six weeks to spend a whole quarter’s growth.

Ideally these decisions should be released by the Skills Funding Agency (SFA) at the end of April to allow providers a full quarter to deliver. Otherwise individual providers will underperform on their growth allocations and be criticised again by the SFA.