Apprenticeship reform has put the onus on employers, according to the chief executive of the Institute for Apprenticeships (IfA). Sir Gerry Berragan became the institute’s first permanent chief executive last November – taking over from Peter Lauener, who held the post on an interim basis.
During a long military career, he was involved in training at every level of the army. As director general of recruiting and training, he also acted as an apprenticeships ambassador. The army has a long history of offering apprenticeships and Berragan said the fact his father and uncle had both started their careers at the army apprentices colleges in the 1940s.
“For me, training was second nature. It was something you did when people joined the army. I think a lot of businesses have lost that art,” he said. “These apprenticeship reforms are putting the onus back on employers to recognise that they can’t expect the schools system, or society, to somehow generate the skills they need. They have a responsibility to do it themselves.”
He added: “From my perspective, these reforms are very much about getting employers re-engaged in identifying what skills they need – and to help us to develop apprenticeships that meet those skills needs.
“The levy is an incentive for them to do it. Because if they didn’t have to, why would they? If they could go out to the marketplace and just buy these skills in. That wasn’t working. They had these skills gaps, they couldn’t recruit and they were saying to the government, ‘We’ve got a problem.’”
The benefits of apprenticeships, particularly in terms of social mobility, are clear for Berragan. He has seen first-hand the way quality training can transform lives.
“Certainly something that struck me in my time in the army was the soldiers who came to us who had not been successful in school. It was often because they couldn’t see the relevance of what they were learning in school to their later life. Once they came into the army they could see the training they were doing directly impacted on their job and their ability to succeed in that job,” he said.
“People are much more willing to commit to learning if they can see an imperative to do it because their job and their future prospects depend on it. That’s what really brings it home to me. It becomes more real when the training is about what you’re doing or what you’re going to do than if it’s something theoretical.”
This is an edited version of an article in the 9 February edition of Tes. Subscribers can read the full story here. To subscribe, click here. To download the digital edition, Android users can click here and iOS users can click here. Tes magazine is available at all good newsagents