7th February 2023
Emily Pearson, Head of Business Solutions at South Devon College, reflects on a Torbay Business Forum (TBF) Breakfast Apprenticeship Takeover, to celebrate National Apprenticeship Week 2023
To mark National Apprenticeship Week 2023, once again, for the fifth year running, South Devon College was delighted to play host to Torbay Business Forum’s regular TBF breakfast event, in the form of an ‘Apprenticeship Takeover’ special.
Over 60 delegates and business leaders from across south Devon and beyond came together to celebrate the next generation of our local workforce. Fittingly, a full cooked breakfast was prepared and served by the college’s catering apprentices, and did not disappoint.
Laurence Frewin, principal and CEO here at the college, set the context:
“Apprenticeships and T Levels are growing and going from strength to strength. Employers are responding to difficult times by enhancing their workforce and growing employees’ skills with apprenticeships and on the job training.
“Apprenticeships are also increasingly important for young people. Coop recently conducted a survey which found that a third of 12-18 year olds are more likely to do an apprenticeship than they were 3 years ago. 64% say the rise in cost of living made pursuing an apprenticeship more attractive with the opportunity to be paid whilst learning.”
This year, the theme of national apprenticeship week is Skills for Life, and adult learning as well as the surprising breadth of apprenticeships on offer in 2023, were common threads for each speaker at the breakfast.
There is still not enough awareness that apprenticeships are an opportunity for adults to upskill or retrain, in a whole host of sectors with new standards being developed all the time to meet employer needs and address skills gaps, in line with government’s Local Skills Improvement Plan.
I was excited to lead a panel discussion with two apprentices currently on programme at college, along with their employers. Tom Cloherty is pursuing a Production Chef Apprenticeship at Landal Barton Pines, Ross Phillips from Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue is currently studying a Chartered Managers Degree Apprenticeship (CMDA) at University Centre South Devon (part of South Devon College).
I asked the apprentices and their employers about the benefits and challenges of pursuing an apprenticeship. Ross Phillips responded:
“At my stage of life, bring able to enter into a degree qualification in my work time predominantly is a brilliant tangible advantage – I wouldn’t have been able to access higher education without the apprenticeship route. Across the sector we are realising the benefit of lifelong learning – that’s what apprenticeships give us, expanding our minds and broadening our horizons. Leadership training is a particular focus. Being able to apply well thought-out structured leadership is what will take us forward.”
For Richard Soley, Tom’s employer at Landal Barton Pines, apprenticeships are helping to address recruitment challenges.
“I’ve been an advocate of apprenticeships for a long time. Chefs are very difficult to find and retention is a major consideration. Tom drove us to arrange this for him. We’ve benefited from his added experience, he has become more accomplished in the short time on programme. We’ve established a link to the college which will give us a pipeline for more chefs. The business has benefited massively.
From a managerial point of view, the process of putting Tom on the apprenticeship has been seamless. Government form filling is easy and I haven’t had any challenges. Tom’s happier, he’s challenged, it’s given him a massive amount of confidence.”
For Tom, an apprenticeship was the catalyst to a career change.
“I was working for the NHS and flet it was time for a career change at the age of 25. I was starting at the bottom of the ladder. With the apprenticeship I’ve been able to gain the skills a lot faster – I’m running service on my own now – it’s a good opportunity if you want to learn the ropes quickly. After my Level 2, I’m hoping to progress onto the Level 3 course.”
Closing the panel discussion, Ross reflected on the challenges of undertaking degree level study whilst working full time.
“It is challenging, it requires discipline – the fire service is very supportive and allows me 20% of my working week, but there is still an expectation that I do 100% of my job. The improvement in my leadership and management has meant I can delegate more effectively to my team!”
The TBF breakfast closed with Jordan Keen, newly appointed Devon County Lead and apprentice here at South Devon College, sharing his story.
“After 11 years in catering I decided it was time for a change. I didn’t enjoy school – I didn’t fit into a school environment. I was given the opportunity to do a Level 4 project management apprenticeship here at the college. Going back into education was a scary thought and not something I thought I’d do, but I’ll come out of it with a foundation degree level qualification.
“I’ve now been given the opportunity to be involved in SWAN and will allow me to raise awareness of apprenticeships at all ages. I’ve always felt that apprenticeships have been targeted at school leavers, but for adults an apprenticeship is an opportunity to reskill. It’s never too late to go back into education.”
Nigel Fenn, Chair of the South West Apprenticeship Network summarised the opportunities available to employers:
“Anyone over the age of 16 can start an apprenticeship – the options are so varied. Did you know, you can get fully qualified in all of these professions without the need to go to a university yourself – you can become a fully qualified accountant, solicitor, architect, pilot and a new one last year… doctor. There’s more coming online all the time.”
And the most exciting thing? If there’s not an existing apprenticeship standard that meets your requirements, we are here to work with you to develop the curriculum needed to respond to local skills gaps. Just get in touch.