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Implementing Apprenticeships: Sharing and learning from what works globally

12 Jul 2022
Jane Rexworthy, Executive Director, People 1st International

Apprenticeships are widely used throughout the world to help support employees to develop the skills, knowledge and behaviours that are directly relevant to their job roles. They are a well-established way to develop skilled and knowledgeable employees that add value to their employer.

A wide variety of apprenticeship models exist globally, both formal and informal. Although apprenticeship systems vary between countries, there are also many common features and trends.

Earlier this year, I worked with the Skills for Prosperity team in Nigeria to deliver a series of workshops to partners from industry, education, government and local organisations. The purpose was to help them learn from UK and international practice in the implementation of apprenticeships.

So, what was our approach to sharing and learning from global examples of good practice?

Developing a concept for the workshops

We began by reviewing the Private Sector Strategy developed by the Skills for Prosperity team in Nigeria. This helped us to understand the aims and objectives of formalising an apprenticeship system and the key areas in which support was required.

As the focus of the Private Sector Strategy was centred around the occupations that have the highest likelihood of job creation, we had clarity that the ICT, agriculture/agri-business and creative industries were the priority sectors, helping us to contextualise the content.

Understanding the skills challenges faced by the priority sectors was critical alongside where information, support, examples of good practice and perspectives could best be shared and areas in which they wanted to build capabilities.

After gaining this insight from the programme team in Nigeria, we were able to identify the learning objectives and develop and plan six clearly defined webinar sessions:

Sharing good practice

Bringing in our experience of working with organisations to develop apprenticeship models, standards and programmes, we shared insights on some of the key challenges and approaches to employers engaging in the apprenticeship system.

Presenting private sector engagement strategies that have been successfully employed in different contexts, we provided participants with guidance on how to develop employer forums, and how to make them operate effectively to implement apprenticeships within industry.

We shared an example of the model used within the UK for hospitality apprenticeships, demonstrating why co-design is a critical element of private sector engagement. The example highlighted the approach taken to engage employers to play a leading role in developing the apprenticeship standard, as well as how they continued to influence the quality of apprenticeships by taking an employer-led approach to quality assurance.

Tailoring the content to the audience

Understanding the different stakeholders that would be taking part in the workshops was vital. Integrating diverse perspectives in the workshops, including those from the private and public sector, promoted some very interesting discussions. This approach also helped to bring these different groups together, providing a platform to build bridges and increase future collaboration.

Each stakeholder group was able to look at the approaches through a different lens and consider how things might work and ways they could support each type of approach. With a variety of good practice in apprenticeships already taking place across Nigeria, it was also a valuable mechanism to share the different activities and models already being used within the country.

Each session was interactive and included the design and implementation of tools, with resources and templates provided for participants to draw on in taking their plans forward. Tools included resourcing and costing templates and examples of how to position the benefits of apprenticeships to employers.

Insightful experiences

The diversity of workshop participants and their commitment to embedding apprenticeships in Nigeria brought another dimension to the workshop. This could be seen through contributions made and questions raised which brought the topic to life.

Feedback from workshop participants:

“The workshop threw more light on the benefits of hiring apprentices for organisations. They bring fresh ideas and perspectives to an organisation.”

“I liked that the workshop was delivered by facilitators with lots of practical experience working to build and support Apprenticeships and Traineeships. I also enjoyed that it brought together participants from multiple geographical locations who are all working in one way or another to implement successful models in their societies (national or sub-national spaces).”

“I learnt that follow ups have to be carried out even after a beneficiary has been placed in an organisation, to ensure that the organisation is doing its job to help mould the trainee and that the trainee is getting the required practical knowledge to help improve his/her skills.”

Stimulating the discussion in the workshops by introducing subject matter specialists in areas such as gender equality and social inclusion brought an additional dimension to the sessions. There were some compelling perspectives shared by those with disabilities around the importance of ensuring that competencies within the apprenticeship are achievable, the forms of support that might be required and how to ensure the environment is right for people to learn and communicate. The discussion also highlighted how industry and those supporting people with disabilities in the workplace need to be engaged in building a sustainable and formal approach to apprenticeships.

The project team and stakeholders are now working in partnership to take forward their objectives around apprenticeships and we look forward to hearing about their progress.

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