The Institute talks…about 'raising the standards: the apprentice guide to quality apprenticeships'

Apprentices’ guidance on how to deliver quality apprenticeships launched  

New guidance written by apprentices on how to deliver a quality apprenticeship and look after the welfare everyone on these life-changing learning programmes been published today (13 Sept).

Launched and written by members of the Panel of Apprentices, who advise the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education from the learner perspective, ‘Raising the Standards’ is targeted at employers, training providers, and apprentices.

It puts the apprentice voice front and centre with explaining what to expect during an apprenticeship, welfare and wellbeing considerations, and recommendations for how training programmes can be tailored to give apprentices the best possible experience. 

The guidance focuses on the following five topics:

  1. The induction process
  2. The partnership between the apprentice, training provider, employers, and also end point assessment organisation
  3. Training
  4. End-point assessment preparation
  5. Apprentice welfare and wellbeing

Louis Curtis, a leading member of the apprentice panel who recently completed his mineral products technician apprenticeship, said:

"It is essential that the apprentice voice is considered by those designing apprenticeship delivery. The panel has had the unique opportunity to survey our networks across the country and work with businesses, government, training providers, awarding organisations and the wider apprenticeship community to create this guidance that is practical, easy to understand and puts across authentic views of apprentices. We are really proud of the results and believe that this truly will help with raising standards for apprenticeships.”

Jonathan Mitchell, the Institute’s deputy director for portfolio and partnerships who oversees the apprentice panel, said:

“I would like to thank our apprentice panel for all the truly fantastic work that has gone into Raising the Standards. I look forward to it providing really useful insights and guidance to employers, providers and apprentices. It is only through first-rate partnerships between all the key groups that we will achieve the further improvements we all want to see with apprenticeship delivery and help ensure that apprentices get the positive experiences they all deserve.”

The idea for ‘Raising the standards’ emerged from feedback to the 2020 Apprentice Panel Survey with more than 1,000 apprentices nationwide.

While 87% of apprentices surveyed said they would recommend their apprenticeship to other people wanting to train in their occupation, concerns were expressed by some respondents about lack of support with off-the-job training, welfare, and end point assessment.

The panel decided to create its own guidance from the perspective of apprentices to help address those issues.

The Institute talks…about 'raising the standards'

In this episode of The Institute talks, we talk about the new guidance created by our apprentice panel, ‘raising the standards’.

In the podcast, our host Jonathan Mitchell, Deputy Director at the Institute was joined by Jamilah Simpson, former digital marketing apprentice at Google, Dillion Jones, electrician apprentice at Derry Building Service.

Launched by the Institute’s apprentice panel, the ‘raising the stands’ guidance sets out what to expect during an apprenticeship, welfare and wellbeing considerations, and recommendations for how training programmes can be tailored to give apprentices the best possible experience. 


The Institute talks… about 'raising the standards: the apprentice guide to quality apprenticeships' 

Jonathan Mitchell

Hello, I'm Jonathan Mitchell. I'm a deputy director at the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education, and I'm your host for this podcast and today we're launching the raising the standards. Best practice guidance that's been written by The Apprentice panel for training providers and employers and also apprentices. To show them what really great looks like in apprenticeships and hopefully extend that really great practice that we've all seen in loads and loads of areas across the whole apprenticeship landscape. Today I'm joined by three members of the Institute's apprentice panel, they are Jamila Dillon and Amelia. So welcome Jamilah Dillon and Amelia. Would you like to introduce yourself?

Jamilah Simpson
Sure. Hi everyone, I'm Jamilah. I'm a former Google Digital marketing apprentice. I'm now the programs associate at Multiverse, where we're building an outstanding alternative to university and corporate training through apprenticeships. My role aims to provide apprentices with opportunities that lie outside their apprenticeship qualification, and day-to-day roles for personal and professional development. I will soon be moving into the creative industry to become a graphic design freelancer. I've always wanted to pursue a career in the creative world. So I thought now was the time to make that change and try something new.

Jonathan Mitchell
That sounds amazing Jamila thanks so much. And Dillon over to you. Tell us a bit about yourself and what apprenticeship you're doing, what you're doing at work at the moment.

Dillon Jones
Hi everyone, I'm Dillon. I completed a four-year Level 3 apprenticeship to become an electrician. Once I completed it, I got offered a position in the office to become an electrical design engineer. Where I have just recently completed my Level 4. I'm potentially moving on to my Level 5 soon.

Jonathan Mitchell
Thanks Dillon and also Amelia, you've also joined us today. Would you like to introduce yourself and tell us a bit about yourself?

Amelia Russell
Yeah, sure, so my name is Amelia Russell and I'm a governance and external affairs officer at the Institute and also lead on the apprentice panel and also have recently completed a Level 3 business administration apprenticeship.

Jonathan Mitchell
Terrific thanks so much and welcome to all of all of you. So I've got a lot of questions which we'll try and share to help demystify the raising the standards guidance that you guys have been working on. Dillon, I'll turn to you first what? What's the apprentice panel responsible for?

Dillon Jones
To me, the apprentice panel is responsible for challenging in reviewing the boards decisions. They make some key decisions for apprentices or whole throughout every industry and two times a year we have to update the board on what we do. Another thing that we do is we voice the opinion of current and previous apprentices. This is what we were trying to achieve with our survey in 2020.

Jonathan Mitchell
Fantastic. So, moving on, Jamilah can you tell us a bit what were the key findings that you that you found from the apprentice panel 2020 survey?

Jamilah Simpson
And so we received over 1000 responses to our 2020 apprentice panel survey, and there were four key main findings that we got from it. The first was that 85% of respondents had signed a commitment statement. The commitment statement is a contract which is signed by the Employer, Apprentice and training provider before the apprenticeship begins. The second key finding was at 62% of respondents reported receiving at least 20% off the job training. The third was 70% of respondents were satisfied that they're off the job training was useful in their job, and the fourth was 87% of respondents would recommend their apprenticeship.

Jonathan Mitchell
Thanks Jamilah and I know that the panel work really hard to think about what those findings and the many other findings of fact they came out of the apprentice panel survey what they might mean and what recommendations might be made. Amelia, do you think you could tell us a little bit about the recommendations that were made from the apprentice panel survey? What kind of things did the apprentice panel decide to recommend that they were hoping that that the Institute and other parts of government might take forwards?

Amelia Russell
Yeah, sure, so we as a panel we came up with six recommendations and the first one being adequate preparation for endpoint assessment. The second one being more steps to ensure their premises receive their entitled 20% off the job training during their apprenticeship, and the third one was defining best practice in delivering apprenticeship training. The 4th one was minimum standards of pastoral cares for apprentices by employers and training providers. The fifth one being more steps in taking to market an apprenticeship and promote the value of apprentices, to employers and apprentices. The 6th one being to create a strength and commitment statement, so that places more emphasis on the quality of apprenticeship delivery.

Jonathan Mitchell
Great, and it's really clear to see how the creation of the raising the standards guidance is. It's, you know, supports lots of the things that that, that that the panel were recommending there and  probably worth also saying, you know that we're hoping to follow up that survey again at some point, and they'll be more opportunities for those listening to chip in and share their thoughts as the system continues to evolve. So that's really terrific, and I certainly do know that those recommendations that the panel made were really seriously considered. By colleagues at the Institute and at the Education Skills and Funding Agency, and they've been really influential in bringing about some really positive changes I think. So here we are today. Following on from that survey and  the panels work, we're here to talk about the raising the standards guidance that the panel has produced. Dillion, I'm wondering if you could tell me a little bit more about the raising the standards guidance. How did the idea come about? And who is this guidance for?

Dillon Jones
So the raising the standards guidance actually came back from one of our panel members. It was Louis and it brought it up in one of our sessions. Over the period of a few months, we broke out into different teams and I personally had the introduction inside of it. It’s mainly not only for the apprentices, it's also for the training providers and the employers. So, we're looking at the three-way partnership and how that all links together. Hopefully, like the name says, we're going to raise the standards of apprenticeships because from some of their respondents that we've got some, some apprentices weren't very happy with their three way partnership.

Jonathan Mitchell

That's right, deal and I think one of the things that the survey said, you know quite clearly, was that some apprentices, and by no means all. I think they were really good examples of great practice being done, but some apprentices felt like pulling together the employer, the training provider and The Apprentice themselves. You know, with something that's a bit elusive in some cases, and clearly one of the things that their guidance aims to do is to help employers and training providers and apprentice know how well to work together. I think, Jamilah does that sound about right to you?

Jamilah Simpson
Yeah, definitely the main 5 areas of the guide and Dillon already covered a few of them. But we basically created the guide to cover induction process. The partnership between the apprentice, training provider, employer, apprenticeship training, end-point assessment preparation, apprentice welfare and wellbeing. We hope that the guide will benefit the apprentices, employers and the training providers in the sense to improve apprentice experience and give guidance to those within the apprenticeship landscape. But also we hope that it will be accessible to everyone who wants and needs it, and so we want it to reach the widest possible audience across UK. And hopefully maybe even beyond that. So over the next few months we are working to raise awareness of the guide and support stakeholders to understand how they can support apprenticeships that they're delivering.

Jonathan Mitchell
That's terrific, thanks Jamilah and Amelia what about you? How do you think this bit of work is going to benefit apprentices, employers and training providers?

Amelia Russell

I think it's going to be an excellent reference point and resource for employees and training providers, as well as providing a useful document and template for apprentices, trend providers and employers. So, it's great that it's going to cover all three parties involved, so the three/four by partnership that we're really keen to ensure raise the standards for apprenticeships.

Jonathan Mitchell
And you've worked with a lot of organizations and individuals to come to create the guidance that exists. Jamilah, I think you were looking after the bit of the guidance that was that was about welfare and wellbeing. Is that right? I know work with a whole load of organizations and reach out to individuals and you read a lot. I know during the course of that bit of work, tell us a bit about who you were working with and what kind of what kind of organizations did you ended up speaking to?

Jamilah Simpson
So the whole project was a collective effort from the apprentice panel and external organizations. I work specifically on, as you mentioned, leading the wellbeing and welfare section alongside Jacqueline, John, and Abby. Who are all members of the apprentice panel as well. We reached out to different stakeholders within the apprenticeship landscape to gather real life examples of good practice for apprentice wellbeing and welfare. This included my own organization, multiverse as we have a lot of wellbeing practices in place. So, we put some examples of that into the guide. We also spoke to other training providers such as Apprentify and we gathered insights from as many apprentices as we could by creating another smaller scale survey asking questions specifically about the wellbeing support they had access to in their apprenticeship.

Jonathan Mitchell
Now it's terrific, and I think it's been a real strength of this piece of work that so many people have been involved. I mean, it's certainly you know, in in kind of supporting the work you've been doing. I've been so impressed by how many organisations, providers, employers and other organizations of one kind or another have been so keen to support the work that you've all been doing. I think that's a real strength of the guidance that it draws on all that expertise that exists across the piece. Dillon tell us a little bit about your you. You've been working as you were saying on the induction of the apprenticeship part and alongside the other four units of the of the guidance. It must have taken a long time. How long have you been working on it? What sorts of things have you been up to?

Dillon Jones
Yeah, so the introduction part we've been working on it for close to a year now, I think. We also worked with a couple of the panel members on each section who it was quite challenging to get everyone in the room at the same time, but thankfully we've got Microsoft Teams now, so it wasn't as hard as it should have been. I've been working on it close to a year and hopefully we can keep working on it and keep adapting it as things change.

Jonathan Mitchell
I think that's it. I think that's exactly right. Dillon, one of the one of the key things I think is not see this is the kind of final finished product, but rather something we'll want to evolve and make better as we find out more about really good examples of where apprenticeships are being run in the most brilliant ways. But what you've got us to is a really great starting point and guidance, that I'm sure will be useful to employers, training providers and to apprentices themselves. Amelia, what do you think the biggest challenge has been at this project so far?

Amelia Russell
I think the biggest challenge is making sure it's at its highest quality, because we have had to have a couple of pushbacks on dates, times and it was going to be released in March and then we thought March is a bit too soon and we've got a hell of a lot more work to go through. And then we went through to the July process and try to ensure that we'll release it by July. But then we thought, actually, there's quite a lot going on in August, and we also want to make sure that it has its shine. It's limelight, that it truly deserves. So that's why we pushed it back to September, just to really ensure that it's at its highest quality. We're able to really show it off. Also it's where a lot of start dates do happen in apprenticeship, so we can really be there for people from start to finish.

Jonathan Mitchell
Yes I totally recognise that Amelia, I think one of the difficulties about this has obviously been that all the members of the apprentice panel are themselves as apprentices. They’re working alongside their apprenticeships and doing all of this on top of all of that, but it's been absolutely amazing to see the ways in which their dedication and efforts have really paid off. And, you know, like when I look at it, you know, I just think it's a really great and really helpful document. But obviously it all takes time and everyone got a lot of other claims on their time as well. Totally recognizing that. Do Jamilah and Dillion, do you recognise that? Is that what you found the hardest? Or were there other things that were challenging here?

Jamilah Simpson
Yeah, definitely for me it was juggling my day to day role and the work for the guide. I'm normally very good at managing my time. I'm prioritizing what needs to be done first, but when I had two, three or four things going on at the same time, it was really easy for me to get confused. But there were solutions that I've come across which help me plan out my week and allocate time for when I'd sit down and focus on the work for the guide. I was also working on the wellbeing and welfare area, it meant I had to reflect on the support that I received when I was an apprentice. I was very fortunate to have support from all different directions around me, including from my line manager, apprenticeship coach and my team, but I'd struggled quite a bit during the second half of my apprenticeship in terms of wellbeing, so having to think back to those times kind of brought up emotions and feelings that had gone through a couple of years ago. But when I sat back and looked at the bigger picture of what the whole guide was for it made it seem worthwhile, because I know that in the long run it'll help so many apprentices going forwards.

Jonathan Mitchell
Thanks Jamilah. I think that again, that really resonates with me. I bet you did find yourself reflecting on certain points, what I'm sure was a tough experience at certain points, but really helpful to remind ourselves that you know that all of this is about helping apprentices to balance the various, competing demands on themselves. And Dillon, how about for you what did you find those challenges to be?

Dillon Jones
I think the biggest challenge for us as a group was the number of responses that we got. It was quite difficult to get it up. I mean, we did really well to achieve over 1000 responses in the time frame that we had. However, with the updated survey next year, hopefully we're going to smash this out the park and dare I say we get a lot more. Also, I was leading the introduction part of the apprenticeship and my introduction was really good through my company. I know Joel, one of the panel members, he works for Google and their introduction was unreal. They went camping and spent a week doing activities, but then on the flip side of this we've got some responses where they've not even had an introduction. So it was quite challenging to hear that, and I think this is one thing that's coming from the survey and the guidance is hopefully we are going to raise the standards of the introduction and all parts of it. Ensuring that everyone has the same experience.

Jonathan Mitchell
Exactly, it's really important to the panel. That's what I hear over and over again that apprenticeships get off to a really great start and that that that is that is such an important thing and what it would have been a real joy. I think as this work has progressed, has been hearing about all the great experiences that members of the panel have had so that we can really socialize those examples of great practice. Hopefully inspire all employers and training providers and apprentices themselves, of course and to do likewise so that that's really wonderful. I also really like, Dillon, your ambition for smashing it out of the park on the next survey and anyone listening to this podcast, you know you are encouraged to reply to that survey and let us have your thoughts. We really want to hear them. I suppose, Amelia, what's next for The Apprentice panel? They have been really busy lately, I know doing all sorts of things and advising the Education and Skills Funding Agency and the Institute and all sorts of initiatives and things like that are being worked up at the moment. We've got the survey coming up as well. But what else is the apprentice panel keen to be working on?

Amelia Russell
Yes, sure. So, we've got the apprentice panel members have lots to look forward to over the coming year and one being diversity inclusion, trying to ensure that we're raising the profile for diversity and inclusion within apprenticeships. We're also going to be looking at recruitment for the apprentice panel, so we really are keen to ensure that all roots have an apprentice to represent it, so that they can have a voice of all different routes across the apprenticeship landscape. We’re going to be ensuring that we're going to raise their profile of the panel, externally and internally, so part of the work that we want to do with the panel is to raise their profile, and have a lot of internal and external awareness days and weeks across the press and social media. Also we haven't actually all met in person since the pandemic started, so we're hoping in October that we can all look each other in the eye and actually meet in person. That's going to be really exciting and I'm so excited to meet all of the apprentice panel members because like I said, I haven't met any of them yet.

Jonathan Mitchell

That's great Amelia. And it's exactly that, isn't it? We want the voice for apprentices to be heard really clearly here at the Institute, by our colleagues elsewhere and Department for Education, in the Education and Skills Funding Agency, and the panel having great members; a really kind of visible profile is a great way of ensuring that apprentices voice is really heard and attended to and in the work that we're all doing. Because in the end, you know we've all got the same shared interest in making sure that our apprenticeships are as great as possible. So we wish you loads of luck with that work as you as you take it forward over the coming year. And Jamilah, what would you like to see the panel working on next? Do you have any particular kind of priorities for yourself that you hope the panel might be able to get stuck into?

Jamilah Simpson
I think the work around diversity and inclusion is really exciting. There's a lot to do in terms of increasing that across the apprenticeship landscape. Me personally, as I'm going to be moving away from the apprenticeship industry for a bit and going into creative freelancing. Unfortunately I’ll be stepping down from the panel and as much as I love being part of something like this and being able to represent the apprentice voice in such an important landscape, I want to give other apprentices the opportunity to advocate for themselves and step up to a role like this. I've been working alongside the panel members for the past year and a bit and I haven't even met any of them in person yet, but I know I'll keep in touch with some and hopefully further down the line will have the chance to meet in real life.

Jonathan Mitchell
It’s really important that Jamilah has made that point because we are gutted that she will be moving on to bigger and better things of course and equally delighted simultaneously. Nevertheless, you know, the panel is constantly evolving. People obviously move on. They go on to other things. And apprentices out there who are listening to this, who think they might like to be a part of the panel. We're always looking for new, enthusiastic apprentices who want to bring their own priorities, their own enthusiasms, and supporting the work of the panel. Ensuring that we at the Institute and in partnership with our colleagues at the Educational and Skills Funding Agency are really well informed about the apprentice perspective. So, if you think you might want to those people and you'd like to be working with us on all this work, hopefully, Dillion and Amelia and Jamilah, have given you a good flavour of the kind of things that you can be doing and how we will support you to realize those ambitions that you have. So don't hesitate to get in contact with the Institute, if you think you're out there and you'd like to be a member of the apprentice in the future. After all, in the end we are going to have to replace Jamilah however difficult that will be. We'll always be looking for great people, so that brings us almost the end everybody. But I thought I might just close by asking each of you to share with us, it can be from what's in the guidance or from just your own thoughts, one tip that people could take away from training providers, employers or be it apprentices themselves, that would really improve their apprenticeship experience? So, Amelia I'm going to come to you first. What's that one tip that you think people could take away, that would really improve their experience in their apprenticeships?

Amelia Russell
I think the best tip is communication, so having excellent communication in the introduction to your apprenticeship and maintaining the 3/4 way partnership during the apprenticeship. Communication in your training and especially in your preparation for the EPA and wellbeing and welfare that is so important that all three parties talked to each other, they're all kept in the loop. They all know what they're up to and how best the apprentice is getting on, so that's what my tip is, for having an excellent apprenticeship, is ensuring communication is at its highest.

Jonathan Mitchell
And Dillon how about you? What's your one key tip that you reckon you could share with others.

Dillon Jones
Yeah, so it's similar to Amelia, mind links in. My serious answer would be to listen, it helps so much if you just listen. It makes everyone's life easier. I'm not so serious answer is just enjoy it. It'll fly by too quick.

Jonathan Mitchell
I think that is absolutely right. Yes do enjoy it. I mean, goodness me that you know if it's anything it should be as enjoyable as it is practical. I think that's right. Jamilah, what about you? What's your what's your key takeaway?

Jamilah Simpson
I say take every opportunity that you can, bearing in mind your physical and mental capacity. Being an apprentice means that you're there to learn and people know that. So, use your opportunity to ask questions, asked to be involved in as many projects as you can. Ask someone outside of your team for 30 minutes of their time to speak to them about their role and their career journey. As much as you can, soak up information, kind of like a sponge and save every moment, because as Dillion said, it can go by very quick and be over before you know it.

Jonathan Mitchell
Fantastic, well look. This has been really interesting, and I want to take a moment to just thank all three of you and indeed the rest of the apprentice panel for the amazing work done to create this guidance. It’s so valuable, I think for employers, training providers and other apprentices to have access to really thought through and really positive bit of guidance. That shows what great looks like in apprenticeships, and we'd really encourage everybody out there to have a good look at this guidance, to read through it carefully, to think about how that can be reflected in the experiences that you're putting in place for your own apprentices if you're an employer or provider. Or for yourselves if you if you are or would be a current apprentice. The panel has done a great job. It's really interesting and really positive and really constructive work. In the end, sadly, that's all we've got time for, for today's podcasts. But a huge thanks, particularly to Dillon, Jamilah, and Amelia for taking the time to join me today. Many thanks for listening to all of you out there as well, and look out for the next episode. Meanwhile, take care of yourselves and goodbye!

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