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In the 21st Century, ‘apprenticeship’ is truly an international word. Almost every English-speaking country in the developed world has an apprenticeship programme, and Central Europe leads the way on learning that combines on-the-job training with qualifications.

But when you drill down to the differences between countries and their programmes, the gaps could not be wider.

That was the purpose of the first world class apprenticeships study tour organised by the International Skills Standards Organisation (INSSO), which led delegates from Northern Ireland, South Africa, New Zealand, Canada and the United States on a journey of discovery earlier this month.

I was lucky enough to accompany the group, and in this supplement I aim to report back on the lessons we learned on our tour of America and Canada.

The Federation for Industry Sector Skills and Standards (FISSS) produced a helpful report on apprenticeships in English-speaking countries last year, from which we present some information on page three to set the scene.
Our first destination was Washington DC’s Urban Institute, where speeches from apprenticeships expert Dr Bob Lerman and US Labour Secretary Thomas Perez shed some light on the inside view of apprenticeships, or rather, the lack of, in America. These are covered on pages four and five.

On pages six and seven, we explore the Canadian system, which is governed by the all-powerful Red Seal programme. We also hear from Sarah Watts-Rynard in the first of a series of transatlantic expert pieces aimed at opening up the debate on global apprenticeship policy.

After Canada, our trip took us to South Carolina to investigate one of the US’s real apprenticeship success stories. See pages 10 and 11 for the employers’ view, and another expert from Apprenticeship Carolina’s Brad Neese.
Our tour was led by Labour MP John Healey, whose link to the FE and skills sector remains strong a decade after his term as England’s first adult skills minister ended. We feature some of his speech to the Urban Institute, along with an exclusive interview, on pages 12 and 13.

Finally, on pages 14 and 15, we have a debrief with INSSO chief executive Tom Bewick and other delegates on how the tour shaped their views on apprenticeships in the global arena.