With the announcement from the prime minister on the introduction of the Lifetime Skills Guarantee, allowing education and training for all throughout their lives, the further education sector breathed a long-awaited sigh of relief.
It could not have come at a better time: the gap between the rich and poor continues to grow, and social mobility appears harder. Unfortunately, this means that the quality of an individual's education varies, to a large extent, depending on the social class that they are born into, and, more often than not, the higher the family income, the better the educational opportunities.
Historically, our education system prioritises academic achievement – skills and attributes key to a professional environment aren’t given the same reverence as traditional qualifications.
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With 34 per cent of our apprentices within the health and social care industry between the ages of 24 and 40, and another 27 per cent of them over the age of 40, we know that the desire to work in a vocational capacity is there, and it is encouraging to see that age does not always present a problem.
How apprenticeships can help to reduce the skills gap
With a damaged economy, how we recruit and credit people’s merits is crucial to reducing the skills gap and boosting employment in our country. It is encouraging to see an increasing number of organisations adopting fairer recruitment processes and understanding the potential of all people, no matter what their backgrounds. Many employers are taking the opportunity to implement training programmes, such as apprenticeships and traineeships, to allow those lacking traditional qualifications to learn and expand their knowledge within a professional capacity.
This is a positive step towards a more equal society that does not discriminate because someone does not match up to the perceived “gold standard”. With the commitment of our government towards strengthening the relationship between employers and education providers, as highlighted in the recent Skills for Jobs White Paper, it’s encouraging to see the FE industry gaining the recognition it deserves.
We hope to see significant growth in those wishing to retrain, upskill or switch careers at any point in their life. I believe that exposing more people to skills-led education and training throughout their lives will not only change how businesses employ individuals without traditional academic qualifications but also produce a significant shift towards a more equal and productive economy.
Working in the education and business sector, across retail, business, management, warehousing and logistics, and hospitality, we see people from all walks of life overcome hurdles to enjoy personal and professional success, and it has got to be one of the most satisfying parts of my job. When you stop looking at the CV, and start looking at the person, you can see huge pools of talent, across the nation, that would otherwise be missed.
Supporting talent, not qualifications
We want to break the tedious cycle of wealth opening doors for some, while slamming them shut in the faces of others, which is why we support talent, not just qualifications. To promote this, we have work centres in locations such as Bradford and Bolton, where employment is low, but where we felt we could drive an increase. We have Qube Work-Fit, a division whose primary aim is to unlock the potential of jobseekers, and now 100 per cent of our courses are online, to enable students to work in a remote format, through Qube Vision.
It’s about developing skills, whatever stage you are at in your career, and looking at vocational and creative skills, rather than just academic status. Looking at the role that apprenticeships and traineeships play is a fundamental objective. It will escalate employment statistics across all demographics and industries. In engineering, we currently have 0.2 per cent of 16- year-olds on an apprenticeship programme, and 0 per cent of apprentices aged 24 and over. Why is this?
Employers are still not seeing the full benefit of investing time to train people and what it could mean for their business. The attitude to the FE industry is gradually altering, and we can only continue to change thinking and hopefully create a more sustainable and equal society.
Joe Crossley is the chief executive of Qube Learning, a recruitment and training solutions provider