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Jason Holt

The Holts Group


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Crafting a future of great apprenticeships


Apprenticeships ambassador Jason Holt gives us a few more reasons why they're a more viable route into business than ever.

Apprenticeships have been in existence for over 100 years now. In that time so many businesses have been fortified and revitalised by apprenticeships. However, while at the start of the 20th century, dressmaking, engineering and carpentry apprenticeships were all the rage, today health and social care, business administration and management apprenticeships are most prevalent.

Contrary to that trend, in the jewellery industry creative and hands-on apprenticeships have been pivotal. 15 years ago there was a distinct and concerning lack of new blood rising up through the ranks in the crafts. The jewellery trade had always employed apprentices, but it was not the flourishing business it once was. A diminishing number of people were learning jewellery craft skills, leading to a skills gap that threatened a craft honed since medieval times.

Urgent action was needed to secure the competitiveness of the UK jewellery sector, and with no training for jewellery makers in the country businesses were best placed to make this happen. Now, the government’s Trailblazer programme is putting employers in the driving seat when creating new standards for apprenticeships. Trailblazers are groups of leading employers within a sector, working together to develop new apprenticeship standards. A key feature of the new system is it will lead to apprenticeships that are more relevant to particular industries, encompassing sectors such as HR and boatbuilding. Employers will get involved in developing the standards for occupations in their sector, with the opportunity to define the skills, knowledge and behaviours they require in their future workforce, and apprenticeship training subsidised by Government will help to deliver this. This in turn will mean that apprenticeships can more directly support businesses to help them grow and prosper. As part of the programme, different teams made up of industry leaders are selected to represent their individual industry.

In the crafts industry the team selected submitted a new apprenticeship standard in craftsmanship. With that new standard comes a new era, when to be a craftsperson will once again be a coveted position in society. As recent research shows, over the last century apprentice numbers quadrupled from 191,426 to 850,000 today. However, what hasn’t changed is the nature of an apprenticeship – the ability to gain valuable skills, whilst doing the job. Businesses and industries also benefit from apprenticeships, having the opportunity to recruit the skilled people they need to grow.

Employers invest in apprentices as they not only bring a fresh energy and new ideas to the business, they take on the company ethos, show loyalty and become future managers and leaders. With the Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr) estimating that apprenticeships contributed £34bn to the UK economy in 2014, it will be interesting to see how the model continues to evolve this year and in the future. It will be great to see new sectors and industries coming to the fore. But for now the revival in craft apprenticeships means British craftsmanship is well and truly back in business.

To find out more about apprenticeships, as well as how your business can benefit from Government support, visit

Jason Holt CBE is apprenticeships ambassador and CEO of the Holts Group of Companies


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