This week is National Apprenticeship Week, and as the Minister responsible, I’ve had a diary packed with virtual visits to FE colleges, universities and employers who run and support apprenticeship programmes. It’s been fantastic to see the huge range of opportunities available in every career route you can imagine, from nursing to engineering, plus new emerging industries like space and AI, to the more traditional, such as early years education and construction. You can also join at entry-level and continue with an apprenticeship up to masters degree level.
The best part of the week so far has been hearing inspirational stories from apprentices about how their apprenticeship has transformed lives and given people the skills they need to succeed. The brilliant thing about our high-quality apprenticeships is that they are co-designed with employers from the public and private sector, so the skills you learn will always be truly valued by industry. Over five million people have trained as an apprentice since 2010 in a vast range of careers and a little known fact is that half are young people and half are adults looking to update their skills; starting a second career or getting their first chance to train in the career they always dreamed of.
Locally we have a huge amount to celebrate, with our very own Chichester College currently training over 1,800 apprentices across the group, working with 926 partner businesses. Such is their connection with local industry, that every Rolls Royce car made in Chichester has been worked on by an apprentice from the college.
Apprentices have also played a massive role in the fight against Covid-19, with over 250 apprentices across our local hospital trust working in the nursing, clinical, and research teams. Our local healthcare skills development is due to expand, thanks to a partnership between Chichester University and St Richard’s Hospital to create a School of Nursing – with a high number of local applications already being reviewed for the programme.
Apprenticeships are a key part of the skills agenda. As the Apprenticeship and Skills Minister, at the DfE we are building a system where technical and academic education is considered as equal - something that I truly understand having undertaken a degree apprenticeship myself 35 years ago.
We've already taken steps towards achieving this with the introduction of T levels. These high-quality technical qualifications offer 16-year-olds a real alternative to A-levels. Similar to apprenticeships, the high-quality technical courses are designed with employers and include a work placement for a minimum of nine weeks so learning can be put into practice, developing skills that will lead to employment. Continuing this theme, The Skills for Jobs White Paper, that I’ve been working on over the past year, will revolutionise post-16 education by putting employers at the heart of the system; helping to develop tailored plans that will meet local skills needs. We’ve also introduced a lifetime skills guarantee offering adults the chance to study courses that will lead to more career options.
Having a strong skills-led education system will create a continuous pipeline of talent which will help level up and spread opportunity throughout the economy.