Shadowing should be embedded in apprenticeship standards

12 Jun 2022, 6:00

Shadowing is highly effective CPD and also helps to build relationships within organisations, writes Priya Patel

I’m a former digital marketing apprentice at an independent training provider, and now I hold a full-time role there. It means I have first-hand experience of reaping the opportunities of an apprenticeship programme.

The most impactful opportunity I had was shadowing – something that perhaps we don’t discuss very often in the FE space.

Shadowing is the activity of working alongside another member of the business that you work for, who has a different role to you. This is so you can build upon your transferrable skills while also networking in other parts of the organisation at the same time.

The whole process helps an organisation to achieve business goals through better relationships. 

When I worked with different members of the business, I found it very useful because it put into perspective how no working day is the same.

We learnt valuable knowledge from one another which enabled us to work better together in the future.

This shows how shadowing helps not only the learner, but the business and business members to work more efficiently. It set a higher standard of work for all of us involved.

It’s important to note that shadowing is different from other aspects of an apprenticeship.

This is because it’s a practice that is changeable, depending upon the different people you’re shadowing.

It means that learners can build up their skills in line with their needs, as well as the business’s needs. Shadowing helps to close skills gaps by facilitating learning first hand, in the shoes of colleagues. 

If there’s a particular skills gap in your team, pinpointing another business member to learn from could be the way to upskill apprentices further. Also, it allows a business to do this without having to employ another team member.

Similarly, if the business has connections with another business, a way for these businesses to build connections is by allowing employees from each business to work alongside one another.

This shows how shadowing can allow your team to branch outward to other businesses in a way that will provide value to one another, as well as for apprentices. They’ll get the opportunity to network in a new streamline.

Suggesting shadowing can also, of course, be an effective strategy to deploy substantial continued professional development for your team.

Within any business, shadowing should be available to apprentices if they ask or if the business recommends it.

Shadowing in apprenticeship standards would help model good leadership

But it’s important to stress that shadowing is not in the apprenticeship standards.

If shadowing was in the standard, then more talent could be brought out on programmes and more individual apprentices could be stretched and developed.

If shadowing was embedded in all apprenticeships, we could create a new generation of apprentices who are leaders of their own learning.

By incorporating shadowing into the apprenticeship standard, this will help model good leadership. It would show learners that leaders exist at different stages of the career ladder, not just at ‘the top’ of it.

This in turn would emphasise the need to assist colleagues to gain the skills for these different stages of the career ladder. In turn, this would allow apprentices to experience a learning curve that represents the kind of leader they want to be. 

For apprentices to reach their potential, they need to be given the independence to learn in different situations. But they also need the support and encouragement to do so.

When I was an apprentice, encouragement from my peers was the key to see me through the pathway of the apprenticeship.

It gave me confidence to learn as best I could on the apprenticeship programme. This has meant that on completion of my apprenticeship, I am able to continually guide my own learning as I’ve developed that habit from the get-go.

With shadowing in the apprenticeship standard, we would have the power to pass on the torch of brilliant learning, and keep it burning bright.

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