Press release

National Apprenticeship Week

During National Apprenticeship Week Ofsted highlights examples of best practice


National Apprenticeship Week is now in its fifth year and aims to raise the profile of apprenticeships to employers, individuals, parents and teachers.

Matthew Coffey National Director of Learning and Skills said:

‘The value of apprenticeships cannot be underestimated, a point highlighted in a number of Ofsted reports, including the Annual Report and not least by National Apprenticeship Week. There is no doubt that apprenticeships bring considerable benefits to employers, individuals and the economy. Their value has long been known with a history that stretches back to the guilds of the middle ages.

‘Businesses across the country are increasingly realising the benefits that apprentices create, not only in terms of a highly skilled workforce but also by boosting productivity and staff retention. Research shows they are an optimal way of training, developing and skilling people for the future. Apprenticeships help businesses secure a supply of people with the skills and qualities they need and that are not always easily found through external recruitment.’

Three examples of success

Bridgwater College: luxury leather goods manufacturer Mulberry and Bridgwater College working together

Bridgwater College in Somerset has been highlighted by Ofsted as a provider that uses excellent links with employers in its community to build relationships between learners, hopefully securing jobs for them in the future. This was the case with Mulberry, the fashion brand and manufacturer of luxury leather goods. The company’s highly experienced and talented workforce demonstrated that they could hold their own on quality against the likes of Cartier, Louis Vuitton and Chanel, whose handbags are vying for the same shoulders, but over recent years the average age of operational staff had been increasing, and Mulberry was finding it increasingly difficult to replace retiring staff with suitably skilled new recruits.

The company turned to Bridgwater College for help in training new staff with the specialist skills it required. Although the College offered textiles to a small number of students, it had little experience of manufacturing leather goods. Mulberry recognised that the College had excellent skills in teaching, learning and assessment and so both the employer and the College worked together successfully to recruit suitable teaching staff and develop a flourishing and successful apprenticeship training programme at Mulberry’s premises in Chilcompton.

Mulberry has just announced that it plans to open a new manufacturing facility in Bridgwater creating over 250 new jobs. Bridgwater College will be building on the success of the workforce development programmes that it has been running with companies such as DHL, Morrisons and Haven Holidays, to support unemployed people from the community into employment within this new facility and onto the apprenticeship programme.

Andy Berry, Head of Business Development at Bridgwater College said:

‘We are seeing an increasing number of enquiries about apprenticeships, in subjects as diverse as Leather Goods, Photography, Engineering and Construction. The increase in university fees and the general rise in the cost of living mean that many young people and their parents are looking to an apprenticeship as a means of learning new skills, furthering their studies and gaining a nationally-recognised qualification, while earning. An increasing number of employers are supporting apprentices to gain university level qualifications through the new Higher Apprenticeships.’

The College is putting on a number of activities to mark National Apprenticeship week.

Westminster Kingsway College: the Young Chefs’ Academy

Westminster Kingsway College was highlighted in Ofsted’s ‘Learning from the best’ report as an example of best practice that worked well to support learners. It offered a 10-week course on Saturday mornings, sponsored by Geoffrey Harrison Catering, for school children to experience working in a commercial training kitchen. The project was aptly called The Young Chefs’ Academy, and it gave young people who were considering working in the hospitality industry first-hand experience of the type of training they would receive as part of their learning, especially if they are considering an apprenticeship in the future.

Alexandra Roberts, Programme Manager for Culinary Arts Full Time Courses and Commercial Enterprise at Westminster Kingsway College, said:

‘The Young Chefs’ Academy is a really good introduction to basic cooking skills and food hygiene. It allows the students to work safely and enjoy the kitchen environment in an exciting and fun setting. The course is also a fantastic preliminary course to the Professional Chef Diploma.’

Westminster Kingsway College has an excellent reputation within the hospitality and catering industry with many famous alumni across the sector. The College offers a unique opportunity to study in central London for vocational qualifications that are tailored direct to employment opportunities. Westminster Kingsway College is recognised as one of the leading providers of education and training in London and has been accredited with the new national Training Quality Standard.

Prospects College: Builders’ breakfast

Prospects College worked very well with local employers and was highlighted in an Ofsted report called ‘Learning from the best’. Prospects College is a work-based learning provider in Essex. Their apprenticeship programme in construction features courses in bricklaying, carpentry and joinery, painting and decorating, plumbing and electrical installation. Staff teaching construction worked with a number of local construction employers and set up ‘Builders’ breakfast’ meetings. These meetings provided a vital network that bridged the gap between apprentices leaving training and looking for work and employers looking for staff who were job ready. When there was less work on one site during quieter times, employers were happy to send trainee apprentices to a different busier site. This yielded benefits for both parties, on the one hand employers would be grateful for the help they received by the trainees during busier times, and also trainees gained more experience as their time was filled with purposeful and challenging tasks.

A construction employer who attended the breakfasts and worked with the college said:

‘Giving another apprentice the chance to work on my site is no big deal. It’s my chance to give something back to the industry. I’d like to think that if I was starting again, a builder out there would do the same for me.’

Media enquiries

Clive House
70 Petty France


Published 7 February 2012