The apprenticeship levy and digital apprenticeship service introduced this year, demonstrate the government’s commitment to the success of apprenticeship schemes. They also provide an ideal opportunity to develop courses that meet the needs of employers, educators and apprentices today. To do that, they require smart and flexible learning solutions that are easy and cost-effective to deliver and that create an engaging learning environment.
Apprenticeships, being a blend of education and work-based training, are ideally placed to bridge skills gaps in the workforce. They combine on-the-job experience with the chance to gain qualifications and develop vocational skills. In the 2015/16 academic year, 899,400 people participated in apprenticeship schemes in the UK, the highest number on record according to the Department for Education.
This year’s initiative, which has been in place since spring, imposes a levy of 0.5% of annual payroll on UK employers with an annual pay bill of over £3 million. Participating employers can set up accounts through the digital apprenticeship service to access funds to pay for apprenticeship schemes.
Funding future skills
It’s a considerable incentive for employers to get benefit back from what they pay in. In fact, the forecast is that by 2020 the scheme will fund investment in apprenticeships to the tune of £2.5 billion, doubling 2010 levels. The government and employers alike will want to see the initiatives deliver, not only in terms of numbers but also in terms of highly trained apprentices with the skills that businesses need.
A measure of success will be apprenticeships that deliver an exceptional experience for apprentices. To achieve that, learning solutions that form part of apprenticeships need to offer:
- Ease of access – apprentices often split their time across their place of study, such as a university or college, and the workplace. They also study in their own time, at home or elsewhere. Digital learning tools are the cornerstone of easy access to course content and information whenever and wherever apprentices need to engage in their studies. This means a learning platform that can be accessed from smart phones and tablets, online and offline.
- Adaptive learning – apprentices have a varied profile; they come from different backgrounds and embark on their training with differing starting points of knowledge. They all learn at different rates, require varying levels of support, and respond individually to a range of teaching styles. For these, and many other reasons, it’s important that each student’s chance of success is maximised through personalised learning paths that adapt content according to each apprentice’s progress and needs. This supports learning at an individual pace, which not only results in a higher likelihood of success but also delivers a more rewarding learning experience.
- Outcomes-based learning – within a given timeframe for a period of study, students will progress at different rates. The goal is the outcome, so the most effective approach is to set the right targets and generate optimal learning paths to get learners there. Within this, some apprentices will need to spend more time on some topics than others; they may even need to dive into additional material to plug a knowledge gap before they can move on. E-learning can support this adaptable content delivery – or competency-based education – not only that, but through tracking and learning analytics it can also provide insights into student progress and predicted outcomes. Armed with this knowledge, course tutors can put in place proactive measures to keep learners on track.
Beyond providing a flexible and engaging learning experience, the e-learning platform can set apprentices up with a digital record they can take with them into the workplace. As they progress through their training they can build a portfolio of their work and achievements that serves, if you will, as a visual CV. It can include not only assessment outcomes but also, for example, videos of the apprentice undertaking a task that demonstrates their skills and capabilities.
Through e-learning platforms, apprenticeships can provide flexible access to engaging learning content. The method of delivery is ideal for adapting to each apprentice’s individual needs. Adaptable learning pathways, supported by sophisticated analytics, optimise the chance of successful learning outcomes for all apprentices. As demands and pressures on apprenticeship schemes continue to grow, technology-based learning solutions can help educational institutions and employers maximise the benefit of upskilling future generations with the skills demanded by modern business.
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