The apprenticeship levy is a great start but now the industry needs to do its bit to ensure the quality of the tuition meets its needs

Karen Jones

The government’s recognition of the need to focus on grassroots recruitment through a number of avenues is to be applauded, and the introduction of the apprenticeship levy will directly increase the number of businesses growing apprentice numbers across the UK.

Technical skillsets, in particular in sectors such as construction, engineering and health and social care, are vital to the strength of UK Plc but are currently in short supply so this policy represents a significant step in the right direction.

The impetus to increase take up can’t be led by government alone; now is the time for greater collaboration and industries with skills shortages should unite to better promote the benefits to young people of undertaking apprenticeships, and pursuing a career, in their respective areas.

Although the emphasis of the government to date has been on apprenticeship starts, importantly we must move to placing an equal emphasis on measuring and reporting on completions across all sectors and the quality of the training provided, as observed by the Commons Sub-Committee on Education, Skills and the Economy.

Partnering to deliver better learning outcomes

Ensuring course quality also comes through collaboration with the Further Education College or independent provider delivering the apprenticeship. It is vital to set out the expectations on both sides of the equation (apprenticeship provider and employer) in a service level agreement right at the start of the relationship. This avoids confusion and sets out the quality expected of the course delivered without a doubt.

The onus isn’t just on the college or provider to deliver an excellent learning experience: the employer should take an active interest in the content and delivery of the tuition to its apprentices.

Apprentices need a real understanding of the application from industry experts on technical subjects - onsite, where new techniques are being developed all the time

At Redrow we ensure we have regular contact with the individual on the ground delivering the tuition and also someone operating at the strategic level. This varies from provider to provider but is often the chief executive or a senior relationship manager. Regular reviews involving these key players as well as the apprentices - around every six weeks - is important for checking progress. Feedback from all parties on what’s working, and what might need improvement, builds a full picture of course quality.

It is also important for employers to regularly input into the course content, ensuring continued relevance and up to date methods with materials, resources and plans used at the forefront of construction. Textbook understanding is important; however apprentices and trainees also need a real understanding of the application from industry experts on technical subjects - onsite, where new techniques are being developed all the time.

Tutors delivering training may not have been on a construction site for a number of years so we help them with their continued professional development, encouraging them to sit in on some of the courses we deliver to employees at Redrow.

The Apprenticeship Levy should be viewed as one element of a holistic strategy and we need better collaboration on best practice within the industry on what works in terms of attracting and developing our apprentices. Collaboration is also crucial to safeguard the quality of the tuition delivered. Employers must work with the apprenticeship provider from the get-go and constantly input into course content and delivery to help them hone the very best learning experience.

Karen Jones, HR director at leading housebuilder Redrow