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Jon Kennard

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National Apprenticeships Week: TZ interviews Karen Woodward

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It's National Apprenticeship Week this week, and we got in touch with Karen Woodward from the NAS (National Apprenticeship Service) to tell us about everything that's happening and how businesses can get involved.

What’s different about National Apprenticeship Week this year?

National Apprenticeship Week 2014 (3-7 March) is all about great apprenticeships. It will focus on how great businesses are made by apprentices and how apprenticeships lead to great prospects. Our aim is to demonstrate that apprenticeships are great for business, personal careers and create opportunities for both employer and apprentices.

During the week, we will be promoting all apprenticeship levels and progression routes, including the recently launched traineeships. Also new for this year is the Pledgeometer. For the first time, employers will be able to pledge their apprentice job vacancies in the run-up to and during the week. Then on Friday 7 March we will publish a list of all those that have made pledges. We will be tweeting all the latest National Apprenticeship Week news from @apprenticeships, using the hashtag #NAW2014

Do you think the general opinion of apprenticeships has changed enough?

There has been a marked shift in attitudes towards apprenticeships in recent years. They are growing at a record rate and come with a guarantee of quality. Indeed, young people are increasingly making apprenticeships their first choice, with 54% of young people stating they would like to do an apprenticeship if one were available.

Online applications for apprenticeships increased by 43% during August - October 2013 compared with the same period in 2012 - further testament to the value that employers and young people place on the skills and experience afforded by apprenticeships. Our ambition is for it to become the norm for young people to achieve their career goals by going into an apprenticeship or to university or – in the case of some higher apprenticeships – doing both.

There seems to be a supply and demand issue with apprenticeships in many industries. What can the government and the NAS to do address this?

Apprenticeships are more popular than ever with each online position attracting an average of 12 applications. This is great news, but we do need more employers to commit to apprenticeships, so supply meets demand and we can realise the full economic potential apprenticeships promise. Progress has been made. Over 500,000 people started an apprenticeship in 2012/13 and 100,000 employers in more than 200,000 locations now offer apprenticeships. Furthermore, we saw a 24% increase in apprenticeship vacancies posted online between August and October 2013 (compared with the same period in 2012) - evidence that more employers have realised that apprentices can offer them a better motivated, skilled and qualified workforce.

We have introduced a number of initiatives to encourage more organisations to employ apprentices. This includes the Apprenticeship Grant for Employers of 16 to 24 year olds, which is helping businesses with less than 1000 employees take on an apprentice. Increasing the number of apprenticeships and traineeships available is a core priority. And in particular, we are working to increase the number available in key growth industries such as the digital and creative industries, engineering and IT.

If your business doesn’t have an apprenticeship scheme, what are the steps to take?

Nearly every employer that takes on an apprentice (96%) reports benefits to their business. And the good news is that it is easier than ever to take on an apprentice.
Just contact the National Apprenticeship Service and speak to one of our dedicated employer team. They will guide you through a simple three step process to hiring an apprentice:

  • Decide on your requirements with an Apprenticeship Adviser and drive recruitment through our free apprenticeship vacancies service, the jobsite for apprenticeships
  • Deliver the apprenticeship, working with a training organisation to reduce the burden on your business
  • Develop your apprentice and enter them into awards and competitions to put your business on the map.

Karen Woodward is the deputy director, apprenticeships and employer implementation policy, at the Skills Funding Agency. Before joining the National Apprenticeship Service, the majority of Karen's career has been in the Public Service Sector/quasi public sector, including the Inland Revenue, Department for Employment and the Manpower Services Commission. For more information visit apprenticeships.org.uk

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Jon Kennard

Freelance writer

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