Jennifer Coupland took over as chief executive of the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education last November. She reflects on her first National Apprenticeship Week (NAW) in the post.
It has been a pleasure to travel across the country during NAW and speak to so many people who deliver and benefit from fantastic apprenticeships.
Memorable moments included talking to business representatives and providers about apprenticeship priorities.
An important focus for us all looking ahead will be quality. We run the Quality Alliance with the Education and Skills Funding Agency, Ofsted, Ofqual, Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA) and the Office for Students (OfS). I will make sure we all work closely together to ensure apprenticeships truly deliver for employers and apprentices.
Attending the NAW conference meant I got to meet and hear from those who feel passionate about degree-level apprenticeships.
We now have over 100 of these higher-level apprenticeship standards, a similar number of standards at level four and five, and just under 300 at levels two and three. This all provides for fantastic opportunities for people to progress.
I’m committed to apprenticeships at all levels, and we are hearing encouraging feedback on how they are opening out a huge variety of professions – including accountancy, the law, and nursing – to people from wider backgrounds.
On our website we have revamped our occupational maps, which chart the best routes that apprentices can take across the skills system.
On Wednesday last I also attended the BAE Systems Apprenticeships Awards, where I had the honour of presenting five awards for ‘outstanding achievement’.
This was a particularly touching category as it focused on apprentices who had overcome some really significant challenges in their lives – including long spells of illness or unemployment.
They were now flying high in their apprenticeships – and being great role models for others, which was fantastic to see. It was obvious from people’s reactions to being nominated and winning quite how much recognition of their achievements matters. One winner looked quite choked – and my table of engineers started to tear up too!
NAW unfailingly provides a fantastic opportunity to celebrate the many successes of apprenticeships.
But there is always more to do – and other priorities for the institute in the coming months will be improving our funding decision making processes and simplifying how external quality assurance works.
However, the outlook is good. I have seen so much impressive progress with the development of the employer-led reforms since I started as Deputy Director of the Apprenticeships Unit eight years ago.
It has been thrilling to see how far things have moved on since I started in my new role. I remember when we set up the first trailblazer employer groups – look how far we’ve come now!
We have thousands of employers on board with developing and delivering apprenticeships and there have now been more than 500,000 starts on standards.
There is so much to be proud of and I would like to thank everyone – employers, providers, awarding organisations and apprentices – who is making this happen.