This National Apprenticeship Week, North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) Skills Director, Michelle Rainbow, celebrates the resilience of the people who have continued to deliver apprenticeships throughout 2020.
As it’s National Apprenticeship Week, I wanted to take a moment to really thank all the apprentices, business and training providers who have worked so hard to overcome the challenges brought by the past year.
Of course, the pandemic meant that everyone has faced significant changes to the way we work and learn. While it’s been unavoidable that some businesses have had to pause their recruitment of apprentices, or place existing apprentices on furlough, I’ve been incredibly impressed with the efforts people have taken to adapt to an online world.
Training providers shifted to virtual delivery with impressive speed, meaning apprentices could continue to learn. And businesses have changed the way they operate to enable apprentices to continue with on-site learning where possible – take a look at some examples from maritime crane manufacturer Liebherr-Sunderland, and Newcastle’s NEL Fund Managers.
Of course, many businesses have needed extra support during 2020 and we’ve seen an uplift in businesses applying for funding and support which is available from government to help employers deliver apprenticeships. It’s part of our job as the North East LEP to make sure that businesses know about the support available to them and I was really happy to see nearly 200 people at our online North East Ambition event this week, which included a presentation from the Skills Funding Agency on the range of support available for businesses which want to take on an apprentice.
We also work closely with schools and colleges to help make sure that young people are aware of the full range of routes they can take when they leave school – including A levels, T levels, university and apprenticeships.
Of course, not all apprentices are school-leavers, and the relatively new degree-level apprenticeship has proven to be a popular way for existing staff to upskill or reskill. We’re seeing a good take-up of these apprenticeships here in the North East, with people choosing to combine degree-level learning with workplace experience, and I hope this will continue to grow as we move through 2021.
As businesses across our region plan their recovery from the impact of COVID-19, I’d love to see more businesses thinking about what their future skills needs are, and whether these might have changed in the last year. Apprentices bring so much to a business including a fresh perspective and the latest skills, so if you know that your business needs to build on its digital capabilities, for example, apprenticeships could be one way of bringing these skills in, or upskilling your existing team.
It’s a testament to the dedication and resilience of our region’s apprentices, businesses and learning providers that we’re still seeing apprentices complete their training during the pandemic. As we begin a new year, I hope we can build on this achievement and offer more young people the opportunity to learn at the same time as gaining hands-on experience in the workplace. And ultimately, by building our apprenticeship offer, we will build a skilled workforce for the future, and help to bring more and better jobs to our region.
For more information on apprenticeships, visit the North East Growth Hub’s Apprenticeship Toolkit.