Things have started to get better and not before time

Jon Bray
Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Holt review into access to and delivery of apprenticeships in the UK aims to identify the issues that are discouraging businesses - particularly SMEs - from recruiting new blood in this way.

Not before time, I hear some people shout.

In the world of print, an apprenticeship is still recognised as a viable means of entering the industry, but despite various initiatives to up the numbers, particularly among SMEs, this type of training has slowly disappeared leaving only a handful of specialist providers nationally.

So the question printers are now asking is: will the Holt review encourage the government to address the barriers that are preventing printers from re-investing in apprenticeships?

Having studied the review, I hope it will and I think the government is already starting to address the points raised.

So what are the issues?

Firstly, awareness of available apprenticeship schemes. Many companies interviewed for the report said that they would not know where to start when taking on apprentices and were not even aware that apprenticeships were still a recognised route into work. Feedback also suggested that employers were unsure of what qualification levels can be attained through apprenticeships and how they compared to other forms of higher education courses. The government needs to address the way in which it markets apprenticeships and give individuals and companies, clear guidelines on what is and what is not available to them.

The second key issue highlighted in the review, was the need to raise the profile of apprenticeships, which are often viewed as old fashioned, not just within companies, but also in schools. Holt stresses the importance for independent, impartial career advice before leaving school. Let’s be honest, how many teachers sat you down and explained about apprenticeships or what careers were available to you in the printing industry?

In my view we need to see more advertising across a range of media. The government needs to take the message to the people.

The final key point raised by Holt relates to access to apprenticeships. Learners have to want, and, importantly, need to know how to access, apprenticeships.

Having been encouraged to give clearer guidance, the National Apprenticeship Service website is currently being redeveloped. And independent training providers, such as Learn2print, are developing websites that will help link up apprenticeship candidates with employers.

Additionally awarding bodies in print, both GQA and City and Guilds have invested time and money into the development of the very latest Qualification and Credit Framework for our industry and are actively promoting careers in print.

So, things have started to change. The bottom line is that we all need to know what is available to us and not just in the printing industry. On the face of it, the government does appear to be taking notice of these key issues and is beginning to act.

We can only hope it will kickstart a move towards more apprentices and more apprenticeship providers in print.

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