Apprenticeships are good for business, in every sense of the word, says David Grailey

National Apprenticeship Week is a time to celebrate the true value of apprenticeships in terms of stimulating the economy, increasing workplace productivity, developing staff, and providing exciting opportunities for young people to get their foot on the career ladder.

It’s my belief that education doesn’t need to stop when you enter the workplace. We’re all on a journey of learning and development and apprenticeships allow people to formally achieve qualifications, whilst gaining work experience and earning money, without accruing debt.

At NCFE, the learner is at the core of everything we do and it’s our primary aim to prepare them for the competitive labour market and support them in accessing apprenticeships.”

When it comes to education, one size doesn’t fit all. Doug Richard states in his review that “no single means of learning will ever suit everyone” and this echoes my own thoughts – it’s essential that we embrace a wide variety of skills and find the right route for each individual. Whilst higher education is the preferred route for some learners, others get more satisfaction from learning on the job.

At NCFE, the learner is at the core of everything we do and it’s our primary aim to prepare them for the competitive labour market and support them in accessing apprenticeships. With this in mind, I find it encouraging to hear that additional funding has been secured from the apprenticeship application support fund to give learners a head-start in their apprenticeship applications.

Through this investment, up to 17,000 young people will be supported on to apprenticeship schemes. Support will include practical skills, such as interview preparation and CV writing, to raise the quality and success rate of applications for vacancies.

Similarly, I welcome the recent proposals for the traineeship programme to be launched in September 2013, which will help young people to boost their skills and confidence before an apprenticeship.

NCFE already has a large range of qualifications that fit well into the traineeship model, giving structure to the programme and motivating learners by recognising their skills.

For example, qualifications such as Employability Skills help learners to make the leap from education to the workplace via apprenticeships, through building the core transferable skills that all businesses are looking for. These skills enable learners to be “competent and confident beyond the confines of their current job”.

This is something that Richard specifically highlights in his apprenticeship review and it’s an issue that we’re keen to address.

It’s fantastic to see work experience featuring so highly on the traineeship agenda – it’s through genuine interaction with business that learners get a feel for the workplace. What’s more, by displaying this experience on their CVs, learners will become more appealing to employers.

At NCFE, we offer a range of qualifications such as our Level 2 Award in Developing Skills in the Workplace that support the work placement itself. Qualifications such as these provide a framework so that employers can see the quality and the value of the experience for the learner.

When it comes to an apprenticeship, sometimes  the value of the experience for the learner speaks for itself — it’s always heartening to hear of young people who’ve completed an apprenticeship and  gone on to succeed in the workplace. For example, I was proud to hear about 20 young NCFE apprentices in London who were recently recruited as ambassadors at The View from the Shard, welcoming in visitors on opening night.

Further steps need to be taken to support this ‘lost generation’ and set them on the road to a brighter future.”

The learners are currently completing an NCFE Apprenticeship in Customer Service and have gained NCFE qualifications in Employability Skills.

It was a big first day for the talented group who rose to the challenge, took their chance to shine and showcased their skills.

Overall, with youth unemployment figures remaining at the one million mark, it’s clear to see that further steps need to be taken to support this ‘lost generation’ and set them on the road to a brighter future. It’s my hope that quality modern Apprenticeships will continue to gain prestige as  a gateway to a successful, skills-based career.

Through initiatives such as traineeships, we can ensure that young people are well prepared to be a positive addition to any workforce, offering employers real, tangible benefits to their business.

David Grailey is NCFE chief executive

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This article was published in a special 16 page National Apprenticeship Week 2013 supplement (click on image below to download 15mb PDF