#NAW2024: Role of the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education
Apprenticeships have undergone significant reform over the last 10 years, raising the standards and variety of occupations that can be achieved through vocational learning. This National Apprenticeship Week (5-11 February 2024), Dr Kate Barclay, BIA's Skills Strategy Consultant, delves into the key phases of this transformation and unveils the exciting role of the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education (IfATE) in working with employers to shape skills training for our future workforce.
Since the Richard Review of Apprenticeships at the end of 2012 successive government policies have followed recommendations to redefine apprenticeships with a greater focus on high-quality outcomes and industry-defined curriculum that meets the needs of the employers across sectors. Groups of employers from a wide variety of Life Sciences organisations formed ‘Trailblazers’ who collaborated to design apprenticeships with the technical and scientific knowledge, and practical application of urgently needed skills and professional behaviours required to be successful within our sector. Back in the day, I was honoured to chair the Life Science employer Trailblazer group which developed apprenticeship standards including those for Science Manufacturing Technicians, Laboratory Scientists, and Regulatory Affairs addressing skills gaps across many operational levels in a wide range of organisations such as large pharmaceutical companies, innovative biotechs and supply chain operations.
In 2017, IfATE was created as an arms-length body to the Department for Education to work with employers across all sectors to shape skills training in England, for the future of the workforce. IfATE works with thousands of employers and industry networks to help create and maintain the occupational standards for apprenticeships and technical education products, such as T-Levels and Higher Technical Qualifications (HTQ). It has been an absolute privilege to serve on their Board of Directors since inception alongside a diverse cross-section of industry representatives and training organisations to ensure the skills needs of employers are being met.
To me, it has been so important that employers are central to development of these high-quality standards and seeing the significant uptake of apprenticeships, in particular, to diversify the career pathways into science and upskilling within employment, has been incredible to see. There has been significant policy reform in vocational education along the way and it has given me a critical insight into the politics of education! Perhaps the more successful countries in this space have more stability? What has been fascinating is working with such a wide variety of employers across occupations. Each sector has its unique challenges, whether it’s a lack of diversity of new talent, an ageing workforce, the pace of new technology or funding constraints, and each sector knows its unique skills gaps. Yet when these are pulled together there is so much to learn from each industry and collaboration across occupations that you really wouldn’t expect to see.
More recently the Skills and Post-16 Education Act came into legislation that aims to add to the transformation of the skills and training landscape across the country. This is based on Skills for Jobs & Life Long Learning, supporting people to develop the skills needed to get good jobs and improve national productivity. The paper again outlined the vital role of employers in defining their skills needs within the system, the need to provide higher level technical qualifications and flexible, lifelong learning for those wanting to cross sectors, progress or change careers. My role at IfATE is to ensure that they remain deeply rooted in the central role of employers, but they can only do this if industry engages with their skills needs. There are so many formal and informal ways to get involved and begin to address your skills gaps and I would encourage anyone to reach out and get engaged.
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