On Tuesday in Parliament Sajid Javid asked a question which is shown below. The response came as the image above shows from Gillian Keegan who is the Minister responsible for Apprenticeships from within the Department of Education. However along with her important role in that Department, Gillian Keegan is also probably the only MP for at least a decade who has been appointed as a Minister who has also worked as an apprentice herself which is much more critical in this context. The challenge is that so often Governments of the day determine people to be their Ministers for a vast number of reasons but their historic and personal experience applied to the department and theme comes down very low on most criteria’s. So we should be applauding this Government for appointing Gillian to this role. However back to the question and answer and then a focus on one way of improving this theme.
To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what steps his Department is taking to promote apprenticeships and the organisations that support them during National Apprenticeship Week 2021.
And the answer which begins with the words above then has the following
National Apprenticeship Week brings together apprenticeship ambassadors, MPs, training providers, apprentices, parents and employers to highlight the work being done across the whole apprenticeship community and to promote apprenticeships and their impact.
Throughout the week, I will be taking part in a series of virtual events, including career fairs, interviews, conferences, and roundtables. I will be meeting with apprentices and employers from a range of industries such as hospitality and financial services, and taking part in several awards ceremonies which recognise and celebrate the achievements of apprentices.
We are encouraging employers and stakeholders to promote the great work of their apprentices through virtual events and social media, whilst highlighting the many benefits apprenticeships bring to their business. These include building the skills and knowledge required for a rewarding career and showcasing how apprentices of all ages and backgrounds are helping to transform businesses across the country.
We are sharing the message about how to get involved in National Apprenticeship Week with all employers and education providers on the apprenticeship service through regular emails and webinars. We also share information via our networks of ambassadors, account management teams and through intermediary organisations which has a potential reach of over 6 million employers.
Furthermore, we have been promoting the National Apprenticeship Week 2021 toolkit since December 2020 to support the apprenticeship community with planning their activity for the week. Further information on National Apprenticeship Week and our developed toolkit can be found here
So I can respond from one industry but it is far from unique based on my discussions with other companies individually and indeed as part of the Construction Forum in the Sussex Chamber of Commerce. Sadly there are challenges that arise, primarily for the smaller parts of SME businesses that are also not in a mainstream industry. These businesses include micro enterprises, small businesses and the smaller parts of the medium size businesses. The difficulties we face in adopting apprenticeships is that our training requirements are not well matched by the educations settings which are funded by the Government. This challenge impacts businesses like ours that are not reflective of the main silo themes in the further and higher education settings.
The issue is that to start an apprenticeship means that some focused training needs to have happened, ideally in an education settings and then additional provision can be added by the company concerned. So a company like ours can do the additional parts although we are certainly not a training business, but the themes in Colleges are unfortunately a long way from what we need as a starting point. We have had some very positive conversations with Colleges who would be delighted to help us if only the Government was prepared to make their priorities much more modular. Sadly they need to have people attending a significant number of sessions in one subject in order to obtain the finances for their work.
We know that if things were different we could set out the themes and elements we need to have covered and they could then match them for our own existing staff and indeed for our future apprentices. Sadly that is not currently possible and the same is true for a number of other industries based on my discussions in a range of settings. If we could persuade Gillian Keegan to respond given we are a business that often works in her constituency that would be fantastic. We are based in another part of Sussex but we work across Sussex along with Kent and Surrey. If she was willing to respond perhaps we could get her to understand how Colleges like East Sussex College would be delighted to help us but their provision supplied by the Government is not flexible enough to allow them to do so. It would be fantastic if by February 2022 we were able to celebrate by referring to our own Apprentices, sadly unless Gillian will listen and respond that will not happen.