WEA response to the Richard Review of Apprenticeships

The text below is the Workers’ Educational Association’s response to the Richard Review of Apprenticeships

Firstly the WEA welcomes the opportunity to consider feedback to government on the future of the apprenticeship programme.  It is very important that all who are involved in policy delivery have a clear and shared vision of the role of the modern apprenticeship programme in our education system, our economy and society.

Apprenticeships can benefit all sections of society and many occupational groups have newly adopted the apprenticeship scheme as a means of developing the skills we need for the future.  However participation in apprenticeships is very unequal whether you look at gender, ethnicity age or disability.

There are some gaps between supply and demand.  To address some of these gaps the Workers’ Educational Association (WEA) strongly supports the emphasis on integrating wider learning into the workplace and the recognition of lifelong learning processes outlined in the OECD Skills Strategy. We are particularly pleased to see a visible emphasis on:

  • higher order skills, such as creativity, critical thinking, communication and collaboration as essential for absorbing knowledge,
  • moral characteristics (integrity, justice, empathy and ethics) and reference to encouraging individuals to be active and responsible citizens, as is the case in the well-regarded Swiss apprenticeship system,
  • and meta-layer skills, such as learning to learn, building expertise, fostering creativity and making connections across disciplines.

These principles are at the heart of the WEA’s teaching, learning and assessment.

We advocate the idea that apprenticeships should be an optional element in a matrix of continuous lifelong learning opportunities. They should not be restricted to specific age groups or be seen as a mutually exclusive alternative to higher education. People might pursue higher education after an apprenticeship or vice-versa depending on their circumstances, personal development and changing aspirations.

The WEA is committed to addressing inequality and sharing our practical experience of working as trusted partners in such communities. Apprenticeships should provide opportunities for those furthest from jobs and who have to overcome the most hurdles. These include disabled people, care leavers, homeless people, carers and those living in rural areas, especially where there has been industrial decline. People living in areas such as former mining villages face additional practical barriers such as the availability of timely and affordable public transport. Adequate transport, food and care arrangements for dependent relatives can be as important as learning support. Community-based organisations such as the WEA have a bridging role to play between people who are not in education, employment and training and potential employers in terms of building trust and connections between unemployed people and apprenticeship opportunities.

We believe that employers should pay for training where they are the main beneficiary of the training and the focus is company-specific. However, we favour a dual funding system, with competence elements delivered and paid for by employers and state funded general functional and academic elements including the encouragement of skills, understanding and creativity that will contribute to wider society and promote active citizenship, as described in the OECD Skills Strategy.

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About Ann Walker
Adult education and lifelong learning specialist and campaigner. LinkedIn: http://linkd.in/1GI0QK1

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