Brexit talks were set aside – in the grand Terrace Pavilion of the House of Commons at least – on Tuesday 5th March as employers, apprentices and Parliamentarians gathered to celebrate the life-transforming power of apprenticeships for National Apprenticeships Week (NAW).
Organised by QA and sponsored by MP Sharon Hodgson, former Education Shadow Minister, the event brought together 250 employers, apprentices, MPs, members of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Apprenticeships and apprenticeship thought leaders. Speeches highlighted social mobility and diversity, provided a legislative perspective on the sector and discussed the political agenda for apprenticeships in 2019-2020 and beyond.
Leading education sector voices who presented speeches included:
Sharon Hodgson MP, former Shadow Education Minister
Lord Lucas, Editor-in-Chief of The Good Schools Guide
James Turner, CEO of leading social mobility charity the Sutton Trust
Employers and apprentices from prominent organisations such as Accenture, BAE Systems, BBC, BP, Burberry, Cabinet Office, CapGemini, Canon, Centrica, Cisco, CMI, Deloitte, EON Energy, Experian, Kier, Maersk, Ministry of Justice, Nationwide, Nomura, O2, Penguin Random House, Post Office, Santander, Visa, Vodafone and more were also in attendance.
Social mobility was a powerful undercurrent to the day, with strong statements from many speakers on how apprenticeships have forged new routes for social mobility and helped to bridge the UK’s skills gap. Apprenticeships bridge barriers by opening up access to a wider variety of entrants – both in the form of less stringent entry requirements than university and in terms of cost (apprentices are paid on programme, whereas the average university student accumulates £50,800 in debt). They also provide clear progression routes – QA apprentices can start on a Level 3 programme with just their GCSEs and progress all the way to a Masters degree apprenticeship without accumulating any debt.
The event culminated in the presentation of the inaugural winner of QA’s 2019 NAW Apprenticeship Inspiration Award: former apprentice Joshua Uwadiae, founder and CEO of successful startup WeGym. Joshua, who started affiliating with gangs as teen and was expelled from his Hackney school, closed out the event with a poignant reflection on the impact his IT apprenticeship had on his life. “It doesn’t matter how far or fast you go – just go,” he said.
Speaking on the event, Sharon Hodgson MP said:
“It’s such a pleasure to be able to support a celebration of apprenticeships during National Apprenticeship Week. A diverse higher and further education system is crucial, not only to meet to UK skills gap, but also to provide for diverse learning demands. Apprenticeships are a force of real social mobility, and are incredibly democratising in giving those for whom the university model doesn’t work opportunities to become qualified. The ability to earn whilst you learn is fantastic for the apprentice and great for employers to invest in their staff – and ultimately businesses benefit with a skilled workforce. The modern apprenticeship is really incredible and goes beyond the trades that are stereotypically associated with the sector – offering learners the potential to attain even Masters level degrees in technical subject areas without going into debt. A win for the learner, a win for the employer and a win for the economy!”
Managing Director of QA Apprenticeships Ben Pike said:
“It’s a true honour to celebrate this transformative sector in such an iconic location. Apprenticeships don’t always get the positive coverage they deserve, so it is great to be having a reason to unashamedly gather to sing its praises. A fantastic opportunity too for apprentices and businesses to talk to legislators about what is and isn’t working to ensure the sector delivers upon the social mobility and high-quality, high-level apprenticeship aspirations that we are all working towards.”