Here are 3 ways to improve inclusivity in apprenticeships

9 Aug 2022, 12:00

Existing apprenticeship providers should reach out to smaller businesses to encourage them to offer training, writes Linda Martin

It’s a turbulent time for the planet’s young people.

The increasing likelihood of recession, heightened awareness of the climate crisis, continued displacement of people from war-torn countries – there are plenty of reasons why our youth are facing exclusion from learning and upskilling.

Apprenticeships offer a unique opportunity to level this playing field. As they allow people to earn money while they acquire skills, they can improve social mobility for all.

What’s more, anyone can apply for one, no matter their previous experience or qualifications.

This means that individuals who may have experienced complete exclusion from the professional sphere can enter an industry of their choosing with sustained, proper support from the outset.

Yet as the call for equality grows even louder, it’s important to recognise what more we can do as end-point assessors, apprenticeship providers and employers to boost the inclusive nature of the scheme.

  1. Support a varied employer base
  2. Encourage engagement with EPA providers
  3. Support specific skill sets

Here they are in more detail below:

  • Support a varied employer base

The introduction of formalised end-point assessments (EPAs) for apprenticeships means that there is a standardised quality of training across all sectors and organisations.

No matter if the course is offered by an established leader or a start-up, EPAs offer equality by nature.

More work can be done, however, to encourage increased diversity of employers offering apprenticeships.

For example, while many larger organisations offer courses, the same can’t be said for most small businesses.

This may be because they have less time to invest in training or they don’t have the same scale of HR function that can aid in recognising and facilitating opportunities in the workforce.

They also face the challenge of having to contribute financially to the costs of training rather than having access to dedicated levy pots like their larger counterparts.

Ultimately, this means in areas where small businesses dominate, such as rural towns, young people may have less access to apprenticeships.

We, as apprenticeship providers and end-point assessors, can address this inequality by increasing levels of communication with and support for small businesses that aren’t yet offering apprenticeships.

Encouraging larger businesses to use the Levy-transfer scheme, where left over funding can be donated to another business, could also alleviate the cost for smaller firms.

  • Encourage engagement with EPA providers

By working towards an EPA there is a guarantee that the training provided will meet both the needs of the apprentice and employer upon completion.

However, to ensure that the experience throughout the course is equal across organisations and sectors, businesses should be encouraged to engage with EPA providers at an early stage.

By first familiarising themselves with the standard assessment plan, and any preparation resources the EPAO provides, employers can ensure that every employee is given the same opportunities to learn and grow throughout the course.

This will also mean apprentices aren’t left vulnerable to any surprises that may knock their confidence in the assessment process, allowing each student equal access to success.  

  • Support specific skill sets

The wide-ranging assessment formats available as part of apprenticeships, including professional discussion, written exams, and formal observation in the workplace, can open the door to students with varying experience of formal exams and academia.

We should reach out to the more marginalised members of the community and welcome them with open arms

More often than not, however, individuals will have fluctuating strengths depending on their existing personal skills. In order to foster equality, employers, providers and end-point assessors should prepare each candidate for the different styles of assessment dependent on their style of learning.

Practice professional discussions in role play scenarios; hold mock observations during busy days in the workplace; and prepare them for any written exam by ensuring the apprentice has a good factual understanding of the skills and issues relating to their role and the industry they’re entering.

All of these will ensure that no matter the apprentices prior experience, they can achieve top marks.

Particularly in the current climate, it’s time to put thoughts into action and further improve the inclusivity of apprenticeships.

As an industry we should reach out to the more marginalised members of the community and welcome them with open arms and a clear message: apprenticeships mean inclusive training opportunities for everyone.

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One comment

  1. Harprit

    This was an interesting article to read about apprenticeships. I agree with the EPA evening out the playing field. This is something that I will be discussing with our own assessors and delivery team. I agree that employers should be encouraged to engage with EPA providers to understand fully the KSB’s being developed, in terms of future skills set.