Making the Most of National Apprenticeship Week 2022

By Andrea Moffat, Apprenticeship Tutor

Welcome to National Apprenticeship Week 2022 (NAW2022) at Watson Martin.  I’m Andrea one the Apprenticeship Personal Tutors, and it’s going to be my pleasure to accompany you through this week with a blog. Today’s the NAW2022 Big Bang launch so where shall I start?

 

An engineer I know learned his trade as an apprentice in the 1970s on a scheme run by a forerunner of British Airways.  He still remembers his apprenticeship fondly – has kept his papers, made friends for life, acquired new skills and qualifications that became the basis of his career, became a Fellow of his professional institute and a membership assessor.  This is a fantastic achievement, and one he couldn’t have seen laid out before him as he started the apprenticeship.  He also recalls cruel practical jokes perpetrated by his supervisor sending him for ‘a long weight’ from stores where the store supervisor asked him some 45 minutes later if he’d ‘waited long enough’!  Thankfully those days have gone; the Government ‘checks and balances’ processes overseen by OFSTED eliminate this kind of abuse of power and you can expect to be well supported by your apprenticeship provider and the process to be well regulated.

I’m looking forward to seeing you on your journey!


 

Today is billed as #AskAnEmployer and Progression Tuesday on the Government’s NAW2002 calendar so I’m picking up on the latter in terms of the impact you can make for your organisation, and the wider people agenda in the context of the world of work.

Well, we’re a full two years into a pandemic now, maybe it’s becoming endemic, and during this time there has been more call on the people profession than we could possibly have imagined.  And while the people profession has always deserved a seat at the Directors’ table, suddenly business leaders were looking to HR to take a shared leadership role and stepped up their interest in and commitment to L&D, so often a ‘victim’ in previous recessions.  Here too, there was a recognition that L&D had a key role to play in enabling people though change, enabling people to become more agile, to learn new skills and to take advantage of new, unexpected opportunities.

And here’s where apprenticeships come in. Apprenticeships offer a unique combination of underpinning knowledge, academic learning, and practical application in the context of the organisation all for the price of 20% off-the-job (OTJ), and allowing the organisation to leverage the benefits of the Apprenticeship Levy.  So, there’s never been a better time to enable the development of the people profession to support the workplace itself.  The focus of apprenticeships and NAW2022 is to TRAIN, RETAIN, ACHIEVE the workforce. This is the same for the people profession itself so it can help organisations ‘build the future’ and ‘build back better’.


 

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Today is billed as #AskAnApprentice on the Government’s NAW2002 calendar and so I want to look at apprenticeships from the apprentices’ perspective.  So, what’s in it for you?

You could be just out of formal further or higher education, looking for or working in an entry level role in HR or L&D.  Or you could be a more mature staff member working in operational HR or L&D but without formal training or qualification.  Perhaps you are transitioning into HR or L&D as a subject matter expert? Whatever the reason,  an apprenticeship at entry level would be ideal for giving that underpinning knowledge, professional behaviours and skills application you need.

Alternatively, you could be in an HR or L&D practitioner operational role, have some experience under your belt and be looking for a deeper level of knowledge and skills to stretch you to operate not just for the organisation but in the organisation.  (If the subtlety of difference between the words for and in are foxing you, then that’s where the apprenticeship journey could help!)  An apprenticeship works here too in that it provides that level of academic and practical stretch.

Or you could be an experienced practitioner working operationally, but in the strategic context and transitioning to the purely strategic level.  You need to deepen your knowledge and critical thinking skills to truly add value to your organisation.  Although the word apprentice might have previously conjured up images of younger people carving their careers (and that works too), an apprenticeship at this level is about the ‘why’. In fact, the three levels of apprenticeship are about the ‘what’ at Level 3, the ‘how’ at Level 5 and the ‘why’ at level 7.

As a linguist, I speak fluent German, and with a keen interest in words and their origins, I am reminded that the word apprentice is from French (old French ‘aprentiz’) and means ‘someone learning’.  So, let’s get learning!


 

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Today is billed as Thank You Thursday on the Government’s NAW2022 calendar and so I simply want to ‘shout out’ to all who make the apprenticeship journey possible .

So, who are these people?

They are employers who recognise the value of apprenticeships for their organisations and want to leverage their Apprenticeship Levy.

They are line managers who engage with both the apprenticeship provider and the individual apprentices, to support the apprentice through their learner journey. These line managers proactively use the Apprenticeship Standard to create opportunities for learning; they prepare for and attend apprentice progress reviews, they provide witness statements evidencing the apprentices’ skills and behaviours and they provide buddies and mentors to further support their apprentices and provide the stretch-thinking.

They are apprentices who commit whole heartedly to the opportunity the apprenticeship provides, use the VLE as a resource, diary the webinars and tutorials being sure to prioritise them, schedule the assignment deadlines, commit to and record the 20% OTJ, use the Apprenticeship Standards to guide their learning, communicate with the line manager and their Watson Martin personal tutor, record their learning in their journal entries, and are collaborative learners in their cohort and in the organisation.

They are the training providers like Watson Martin, who are compliance focused and keep your best interest at heart.  These training providers employ exceptional, highly qualified and committed tutors who are themselves committed to CPD, work closely with employers, benchmark themselves against other providers and the standards and requirements, and are themselves open to feedback, and review to improve.

They are parents and carers. Now this might seem a strange one, but bear in mind this is a key focus of NAW2022 – parents and carers who have young people considering apprenticeships. Let’s flip this for our purposes … where these parents and carers support their offspring, you are no doubt supported by others in your life as you are on your apprenticeship journey. So, it’s a big ‘thank you’ to your friends, family members and colleagues who listen to your stories and experiences, who ask those innocent yet insightful questions that get you thinking, who bring you yet another cup of coffee as you work on an assignment, slipping in unnoticed!

Finally, it is your mentor, that person who is not your line manager but is a subject matter expert and can provide you insight into aspects of your learning as you progress through your units.

Well, that’s a lot of thanking to be done!


 

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Today is billed as Celebration Friday on the Government’s NAW2002 calendar and we’ve been featuring some of our apprentices who have graduated in case studies.  In preparing for NAW2022, I interviewed a number of them along with some apprentices who are still on the programme, about their experiences.  Here’s what they said:

I started by asking them why they had come on to the programme and heard everything from: ‘because my employer wanted me to and I’m so glad I did’, ‘it’s been challenging but I’ve learned so much’, ‘I’d been wanting to get a CIPD qualification for some time, researched it, found the apprenticeship and made the case to my employer’, to ‘it’s all about knowledge for me and making a difference in the workplace’.

And what has been the most challenging aspect?  ‘Balancing the demands of the day-to-day work with the OTJ and making sure the latter didn’t get pushed out’ and ‘I’ve not studied formally in over 20 years and so the academic side was a bit of an “ask” but my personal adviser was super helpful here.’

And what have been the major benefits?  ‘The excitement of understanding why things are done the way they are, now I have the theoretical knowledge to back it up!’  ‘Being asked to take on new areas of work and being able to do so with confidence because we’d covered it on the programme.’  ‘Making the link between the strategic direction and priorities of the organisation, my work objectives and identifying a project as part of my apprenticeship that will have a real impact. It’s good for my CV, my profile and career too!’

On the challenges, I asked how have you overcome them?  ‘One of the biggest things I’ve learned is to be honest and open.  You’re not on your own.  Share these with your line manager and your personal adviser, and within your cohort.  Learn that it’s a strength to share vulnerabilities as this enables learning and growth.’

And how has your experience affected your ability to impact the workplace?  ‘It’s enabled me to map the stakeholders as part of the landscape I occupy.  They’ve seen my knowledge and confidence increase.  They listen to me and ask for my opinion.  They see I have something to offer that benefits their area of influence and enables them to deal with their challenges.’

There are several behaviours that are central to the HR and L&D apprenticeship journey, among them being flexibility, resilience, being a constructive challenger, and a constant and curious learner.  What strikes me about the comments from my interviewees is how their experiences feed into these, and how critical they are in a world that is volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous.  What better time than now to use the benefits of an apprenticeship to enable you through this.


 

Today is billed as Parents & Carers Day on the Government’s NAW2002 calendar and if you read my Thursday blog, you’ll remember that this is all about supporting the unsung carers and supporters as they have listened to your stories and experiences and brought you another cup of coffee as you worked on an assignment.

Well, it’s Saturday and all I’m asking you to do today is to make them a cup of coffee, write them a thank you note, whatever is right to tell them that you appreciate them for what they have done to support you on your apprenticeship journey!

 


 

And here we are, the week is over, and a new one about to begin.  Today is #Selfie Sunday and the Government’s NAW2002 website invites you to ‘share your best work or apprenticeship selfies to show the wide range of roles and experiences that apprenticeships can offer.  Prepare your cheesiest smiles and don’t forget to use #NAW2022.’

Here’s mine! (Which maybe you can do without!)

But before I go let me also nudge you towards the announcement that Watson Martin is launching its first Apprenticeship Awards in 2022.  There’ll be two categories: Apprentice of the Year and Employer of the Year.  Visit the website over the next few months to see the criteria and how to nominate and apply.  We’ll be making the awards in September 2022.

Thank you for reading my blogs.  I hope they have been helpful and stimulating, and I look forward to coming into contact and supporting you through your learning journey.

Andrea Moffat