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How can we champion apprenticeships in our schools?

Sarah Barley, National Apprenticeship Awards' Apprentice Champion 2017, on why it's important to encourage more pupils to consider apprenticeships

Posted by Julian Owen | February 17, 2018 | Teaching

As I started my new sixth form role back in 2013, it soon become apparent to me that everyone was talking about UCAS; teachers, parents and students. All too often the focus in schools is on UCAS, and the application process dominates the academic calendar, which can mean other routes available to school leavers become blurred. Many young people remain unaware of all the options available to them after leaving school, and have a limited understanding of the value of an apprenticeship as the first step on a career path.

The reality today is that many young people are deterred from going to university and unwilling to start their working life in debt. University fees aside, continued classroom learning is not the right path for everyone.

As teachers, our responsibilities reach further than coaching young people on how to pass their exams; it is also our role to inspire and best inform our students about their future prospects and career opportunities. At our school, I recognised we needed to do more to create awareness of the wide variety of apprenticeship opportunities available, which is why I set up an Apprenticeship Programme.

'It should be everyone’s responsibility within a school to give young people effective career guidance, not just the careers advisers.'

Apprenticeships offer a genuine alternative to university for school leavers who want to earn while they learn. In fact, degree level apprenticeships mean young people can gain a fully-funded degree qualification from a top university, whilst earning a wage with an employer. There are hundreds of apprenticeships available across a wide spectrum of industries, from well-known sectors such as hairdressing and plumbing, as well as aerospace engineering and software development, through to dental practice. Now, almost all industries offer an apprenticeship route.

Through hands-on training, apprentices gain practical experience and the right skillset and knowledge needed to succeed in a chosen industry. Workplace learning also helps apprentices gain more confidence in a working environment. And what’s more, learning from mentors in a chosen field provides valuable industry insight, inspirational role models, and has huge benefits to a young person’s career.

At South Hunsley School, I’ve taken a number of steps to educate students more effectively about apprenticeships. This includes delivering assemblies on the topic and inviting local employers in to talk to students about their business and the apprenticeship programmes they offer. I also run one-to-one appointments to provide support for applications.

However, beyond this, I wanted to do more to enable our school-leavers to secure apprenticeship opportunities with local business, whilst also supporting the local labour market with recruitment. With so many enthusiastic students leaving our school, it creates the perfect opportunity for employers to tap into an exciting local talent pool.

So in 2016 I set-up the Employer Led Programme, which has so far has gained support from 60 local employers, with interest continuing to grow. The Programme provides young people with the opportunity to go out on placements, be mentored by someone in their chosen industry and complete an Employability Skills Programme ,before they even begin a course.

'Many young people remain unaware of all the options available to them after leaving school, and have a limited understanding of the value of an apprenticeship as the first step on a career path.'

The Employability Skills Development Course is run by Inspire Ignite and Trans2performance to develop the personal attributes of young people. These companies come in to increase self-confidence, advise on corporate culture and which type of organisation would suit them, and understand the mindset and how to maximise success in the work place as a result of this knowledge. It's more about personal attribute development and enhancement rather than skills development for the job.

It is great to see that the programme has been widely recognised. The success of year one has led me to being asked to replicate it across two other schools in our trust, and I have recently been awarded Apprentice Champion at The National Apprenticeship Awards 2017.

Our students now have access to more information, resources and experiences to make a genuine choice about their future career path. We want to see more schools come on board and promote the apprenticeship pathway to really raise the profile of the amazing opportunities available. It should be everyone’s responsibility within a school to give young people effective career guidance, not just the careers advisers.

Sarah Barley is Trust Director of Careers & Employability at South Hunsley School.

 

 

 

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