Post-nominals put apprenticeships and academia on a PARS

One of the first to be awarded professional status post-nominals explains why they mean so much to apprentices and how they’ll change the game

One of the first to be awarded professional status post-nominals explains why they mean so much to apprentices and how they’ll change the game

24 Feb 2024, 5:00

Just over six years ago I was applying for apprenticeships. My teachers, advisors and friends all mocked my decision at the time, and I was told I should be following a traditional degree route. To this day, having a completed a degree apprenticeship, I still sometimes witness stigma and receive negative comments around being an apprentice.

Without my apprenticeship though, I wouldn’t be contributing a piece like this to a publication like  FE Week; I wouldn’t have given a speech in Westminster; I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to go on a decommissioned submarine at age 19; and I wouldn’t have chaired an apprentice council for a national association. And those are just a few of the many opportunities my apprenticeship has given me. Alongside this, I have also gained a first-class honours degree and rapidly progressed in my career.

I know numerous apprentices like me, who can list countless opportunities and achievements they have gained on their apprenticeship journey. And just like me, many of these individuals were almost shamed for making the best choice for their personal and professional development. 

The Post Apprenticeship Recognition Scheme (PARS) will highlight apprenticeship success stories. In doing so, it has the potential to bring their real value, worth and recognition to the fore and do away with the stigma. Post-nominal awards for apprentices provide a visual signal that an individual has successfully navigated the apprenticeship route and derived all the benefits from this integrated mode of learning and development, which is greater than the sum of its parts.

As a degree apprentice, I could always use my Bachelor of Science post-nominals – BSc. I have chosen not to because I do not believe it truly reflects my experience and efforts in full.

On completion of my apprenticeship I was already career-experienced, with a significant range of professional skills and business acumen that I was applying every day in combination with my academic attainment. I had acquired a broad range of soft skills, understanding of the workplace and resilience derived from high-level study integrated with a job. My degree is definitely valuable, but the development gained during my apprenticeship goes way beyond this academic aspect.

BSc didn’t reflect my experience and efforts in full

My purpose in highlighting this is certainly not to undermine or diminish full-time students. Each pathway has different experiences and struggles; all routes should be recognised as valuable choices for career and academic progression. The point is to give both the recognition they deserve.

The awards made to qualified apprentices through PARS and the use of post-nominals will provide a permanent mark of achievement for a route which deserves to be valued in its own right; not simply in relation to other qualifications or learning routes.

Credentials for qualified apprentices also help us to role model the relevance and value of apprenticeships for the next generations to come. Such recognition should be helpful motivation through the inevitable challenges and demands of combined work and study, hopefully encouraging apprentices to stay the course to achieve the full apprenticeship standard.

Apprenticeship recognition also points visually to the fact that qualified apprentices have accumulated experience and acquired, and practised, professional skills and behaviours that boost their value and level of entry in the employment market. It should help prospective recruiters to identify this quickly and help to accelerate their progression.

I’ve seen perceptions of apprenticeships gradually changing over the past six years, and I believe PARS could truly bring about a step change in perceptions that moves the conversation on.

I am now really proud to be Emma Nolan CGA (Certificate of Graduate Apprenticeship) and delighted to congratulate my colleagues who supported the Post Apprenticeship Recognition Scheme (PARS) through the pilot phase as they become the first group in the country to receive their awards.

I look forward in the future to celebrating awards for many more qualified apprentices in the months and years ahead.

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