Candace Miller, Managing Director at SFJ Awards

The annual report from the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Apprenticeships (@ApprenticeAPPG) this week calls on government to increase up take and improve delivery of apprenticeships, as well as ensure better access to apprenticeships for both learners and employers.

Here, Candace Miller, Managing Director at SFJ Awards, welcomes and discusses this forward-thinking publication and the vital proposals it makes for a better future for skills, for flexibility and for jobs:

Launched on Wednesday 21st July 2021, the Annual Report 2020-21 from the cross-party group of MPs and employers who come together to promote the role of high quality apprenticeships, makes a series of key policy recommendations which further recognise the important contribution that apprenticeships can make to the UK recovery.

Following the disruption to learning faced by so many across all sectors over the past 18 months, recognising the potential value that apprenticeships can bring to both individuals and organisations today, and in turn, the post-Covid economy, is essential for the future of our workforce. The APPG’s call for sustainable funding, joined up policies and meaningful incentives can help ensure this potential is fulfilled and apprenticeships serve as a pathway back into meaningful employment and training for so many in need, whether that be to upskill, reskill, or diversify.

As a major provider of End-Point Assessment (EPA) across the apprenticeship standards for our essential protective services sector, at SFJ Awards we see first-hand the important role they play in training, developing, and growing the workforce. By working in close partnership with employers and training providers throughout the entirety of the restrictions caused by the pandemic, we have been able to continue to provide a full package of support through the apprentice’s journey, ensuring that the flexibilities introduced uphold the quality, whilst enabling ongoing access to assessment progress.

Since March 2020, we have pivoted to provide online assessments that are secure and worked to provide apprentices and employers with reassurance about the processes involved, so that the assessments allow apprentices to perform to their best ability.

Whilst we cannot influence the quality of training provision, other than via the response we provide on EPA results, we do have a significant role to play in ensuring the quality of assessments, and we are proud of the positive feedback we have received in this regard. Our own flexibilities have meant that no assessments were cancelled, other than where requested by an employer, and as a consequence, apprentices and their employers have continued to have high levels of confidence in the robustness and value of their achievements.

Ensuring that apprentices are given the recognition they deserve as employees who contribute vastly to business success is critical. They are our future workforce, and as such, employer and government investment in their development must remain a national priority.

The findings from this valuable report confirm the potential that apprenticeships have to drive the UK’s reset from the pandemic, but that they are currently being underused. In order to maximise their impact, the APPG outline a set of ten practical recommendations that the government’s plans to “build back better” must be underpinned by, so that apprenticeships can further contribute to a broad-based economic recovery, at this crucial moment for the nation.

All of us at SFJ Awards fully support the report’s recommendations, and we too believe apprenticeships are an essential tool to building back better. We encourage you to read the report in full here and join us in supporting “a fundamental change in perceptions towards apprenticeships that encourages greater uptake and views them as an essential part of the workforce”, as together we can do more.

Candace Miller, Managing Director at SFJ Awards

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