Could apprenticeships funded by the Apprenticeship Levy aid social mobility?
Social mobility, the ability or expectation of people to improve their or their children’s standing in society over time, has by many measures flat-lined, or even gone into reverse. A report by the Social Mobility Commission (SMC) reveals that just 15% of 18 to 24-year-olds think their generation has the best chance of improving their lot. Such a lack of hope must be bad for us all.
Given that social mobility tends to be defined in terms of jobs and careers, it’s somewhat strange that almost 50% of young people now enter Higher Education, compared with around 10% in the 1980s. Why this disconnect between Higher Education and perceptions of social mobility in the young?
Also strange is that, despite acknowledged skill shortages in almost all areas of the economy, increasing numbers of graduates are reported to be stuck in ‘non-graduate level’ employment.
So increased access to full time higher education has not proved to be a complete answer to the social mobility issue. Could apprenticeships be the missing element?
Other people’s children
Apprenticeships deliver functional – not just manual or craft – skills through on-the-job training supplemented by classroom learning. With skills of all types and levels in short supply, apprenticeships should be an integral factor in increasing social mobility. However, there are challenges.
The number of apprenticeship starts remains massively overshadowed by those at universities. Apprenticeship starts, at 225,800 in the first six months of the 2018/19 academic year, are, according to the National Audit Office, down almost a fifth on two years ago. This is despite much effort to ensure that apprenticeships are of high quality and properly assessed – not just a source of cheap labour.
Many parents and schools understand the demand for vocational training and its huge potential, but still favour university education for their own children – apprenticeships are a route for ‘other people’s children’, and while according to the SMC “most people think apprenticeships offer better life chances than university”, young people under 25 were the least likely to see the value of apprenticeships.
From 2017, Government has applied a payroll-based Levy on large companies. This money forms a ‘pot’ against which these firms can draw (and from which smaller non-contributing firms can be supported) to fund apprenticeships.
However, many large firms see the Levy as just another tax. Others believe the external training and support, the academic element, to be irrelevant or substandard. Meanwhile smaller companies are simply baffled by the bureaucracy. And many firms, parents, teachers and young people simply don’t know enough about apprenticeships.
A good fit for Supply Chain needs
Bis Henderson Group specialises in logistics and supply chain solutions, and we feel that here, more than in many areas, high value apprenticeships should form a major part of the Human Resources solution.
Supply chains tend to be empirical rather than theoretical. So to understand how supply chains work it really helps to experience operations in practice, as well as receive the more academic explanation of how that experience fits with other factors that aren’t visible from the sharp end. This is what apprenticeships can deliver.
Benefits for businesses
Through the use of functional and relevant training and development programmes, learners have a ladder from the ‘shop floor’ to higher and managerial roles, including those with limited formal education, poor or unsupportive backgrounds, or English as a second language.
Beccy Wilson, Head of Development, Bis Henderson Academy, says:
Supply Chain and Logistics is a sector that has shown over the past 10 years that reinvention is possible. Its growth has depended on three aspects: the ability to react to consumer behaviour (i.e. next day delivery), embrace change through the growth of multi-channel / eCommerce and evolve through technology (automation).
The Apprenticeship Levy is here to reinvent training in the workplace and to enable social mobility. To replace the ‘old way’ with the new standards recognised for their ability to provide the learner with the right skills not just the right competencies. The Levy has provided the opportunity to forge real career paths for a broad range of individuals looking to enter, transfer or develop in our sector.”
By seeking to attract and retain the services of skilled, passionate, but not necessarily ‘academic’ people, employers can reap significant benefits in terms of productivity and growth. Meanwhile, learners can take strides in their chosen career – and realise their full potential. Well-structured apprenticeships could well offer the social mobility that young people are looking for.
If you want to discuss how your company can make the most of your Apprenticeship Levy contributions, the team at Bis Henderson Academy are always on hand to talk through any concerns or questions you may have. Book your free consultation today.