The role apprenticeships now play in the teaching sector 

The head of the employer group overseeing the new teaching degree apprenticeship sets out its intended benefits

The head of the employer group overseeing the new teaching degree apprenticeship sets out its intended benefits

16 Feb 2024, 5:00

Apprenticeships are crucial in marrying academic learning with practical skills. This synergy is vital to address workforce shortages, notably in the education and early years sectors.  

My dedication to this cause is personal, not just as a parent, but also in my role leading a university with a rich legacy in teacher training and early childhood education.  

As chair of the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education’s (IfATE) education and early years route panel, I witness the growing impact of apprenticeships on meeting employer demands and workforce needs.

Research highlights a concerning trend in the early years and school sectors, with significant workforce shortages already here, or looming.  

There is a real urgency in developing additional robust pathways, such as apprenticeships, to attract and retain talent in this amazing and crucial sector.

I am enthusiastic about apprenticeships as a recognised pathway into advanced careers.  

This stems from the fact that apprenticeship standards are crafted in direct response to employer needs, guaranteeing the skills and knowledge acquired are pertinent and instantly valuable in the workplace.  

The employer-driven method adapts education to the changing demands of practice, turning apprenticeships into a direct route to excellent employment opportunities and a competent workforce.  

Teachers who excel combine practical experience with intellectual insight, making apprenticeships a logical alternative route for entering the profession.

At my university – a provider of high-level and degree apprenticeships – I am continually inspired by the dedication and resilience of apprentices who balance the rigours of academic study with the practical demands of on-the-job learning.  

We are in the midst of an educational evolution

This blend of learning styles is indeed challenging, yet it embodies the best of both worlds, preparing apprentices for a dynamic work environment. Their success stories are a testament to the effectiveness of apprenticeships in nurturing skilled professionals. 

I recently asked some of our apprenticeship students what they value most about this route of study. They highlighted that they are working alongside experts and are given enhanced opportunities and responsibilities which are allowing them to grow professionally and to develop their careers. They benefit from learning through a very hands-on experience, and they very much feel a part of the communities in which they are working and learning.  

Additionally, earning a salary whilst studying is particularly important in the current financial environment and means that apprenticeship pathways are not limited by the ability to take time off work whilst studying.  

The route also allows our students to balance family and caring responsibilities. 

Our education and early years route panel, together with collaborating employers, continues to contribute to the dynamic offerings of the apprenticeship landscape.  

It’s been encouraging to witness the media attention on the emerging undergraduate teacher degree apprenticeship.  

Awaiting approval this coming autumn, it holds promise for helping teacher recruitment in schools and early years settings.  

It will improve access to the profession to those who might find traditional full-time study challenging, such as teaching assistants or existing educational staff.  

This initiative is anticipated to be a catalyst for social mobility and a substantial support to schools in engaging and maintaining the skilled teachers they necessitate.

We are in the midst of an educational evolution, with apprenticeships broadening access to numerous professions for a diverse array of individuals. This is instrumental in bridging skills shortages and is of immense benefit to the country. 

Apprenticeships – as they have evolved – have rapidly become a foundational element within our educational framework, essential for bridging the skills gap and mitigating workforce shortages and I am pleased to see them growing in importance within education and early years settings.  

As we celebrate National Apprenticeship Week, I’m delighted to recognise and endorse the significant contribution of apprenticeships to cultivating a robust, well-skilled, and flexible workforce for the future. 

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