#1 Placed 4,000 young people in apprenticeships

,  23 February 2015

In ten years of Creative & Cultural Skills we’ve placed 4,000 young people in creative apprenticeships. Not bad seeing as they barely existed when we started out.

When I got the job as Engagement Manager of Creative & Cultural Skills, the creative sector had no official apprenticeships. Fast-forward to 2015 and not only have we placed 4,000 young people (and counting) into apprenticeship roles, but creative apprenticeships are now sustainable – employers can set them up without our input. Here’s my take on the four key milestones of our creative apprenticeship success.

1. Proving there was a need

Where apprenticeships existed ten years ago, the term was applied very loosely. They were ad-hoc, had no educational supporting structure and were often unpaid. In short, the picture wasn’t good.

Employers were finding that new entrants didn’t have the skills to hit the ground running.

I was brought in to help address what was seen as a problem in the pathway between education and work. We could see there was a need for employer-focused, paid training as employers were feeding back to us that new entrants didn’t have the skills to hit the ground running.

We had to translate this from anecdotal to evidence-based, which meant endless research reports, blueprints, scoping meetings and consultations groups. There was no doubt from doing these that employers were saying "we need this".

In partnership with sector-specific qualification reform groups, we put together the first creative apprenticeship frameworks.

2. Piloting apprenticeships

So we had the proof but we needed to test it out with a brave bunch of pioneering employers and education providers, including many of our founder colleges. Would this new approach fit the bill? Would young people come out of the other side more work-ready?

Our first pilots showed that employers were keen on them and education found them easy to deliver. These pilots also provided a model that was to be replicated in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

3. Getting apprenticeships out there

After an enormous amount of consultation with employers, education providers and an awarding body, government-backed creative apprenticeships were out there for anyone to deliver.

I became known in the office as the woman who was permanently glued to her headset.

It was time to tell the worId. I became known in the office as the woman who was permanently glued to her headset, calling people up one by one, explaining “you can take on a young person, it’s not scary”. When my headset was off, you would find me travelling the length and breadth of the country doing the same thing face-to-face – raising employer expectations. I didn’t see my house in months.

It paid off. Brave employers like Tate Liverpool were willing to stick their necks on the line to take on apprentices. And before we knew it, there was no longer a need to go out making the case: colleges and businesses were coming to us.

4. Funding apprentice wages

A few years in and another issue presented itself: funding – or the lack of it among apprentice-hungry employers. Armed with our evidence about the value of apprenticeships, my team and I headed out to various bodies within the sector and asked them to put grant pots in place that employers could bid into to help meet apprentice wages. This approach had the added benefit of helping ensure that the successful recipients would promise to make greater commitments to sustainability and fair recruitment. One of the first that committed to award funds was the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council who funded 50 apprenticeships throughout England.

On top of this, schemes such as the Future Jobs Fund were doing well to match up job seekers with apprenticeship positions, while paying for the first six months. Creative apprenticeship numbers were going up from the tens to the hundreds.

Finally in 2013 we were awarded the delivery of the Creative Employment Programme by Arts Council England, the aim of which was, and still is, to part-fund up to 2900 new apprenticeships as part of a broader goal of supporting 6,500 opportunities. This provided a huge boost to the number of apprenticeships in the creative sector and it’s still going strong.

In the run up to our annual conference and tenth birthday celebration we're looking back at our biggest achievements of the past decade: one a day for ten days.

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