Flagship conference pledges to ‘build back better’ as employers and providers gather to discuss the future of apprenticeships

The Luminate Education Group Apprenticeship team attended a two-day conference in Birmingham where they joined a host of organisations from across the UK for the flagship national apprenticeship conference for employers and providers.

Now in its eighth year, the Annual Apprenticeship Conference (AAC), provided business-critical updates, advice and keynotes for those involved in the delivery of apprenticeships. 

Hosted by FE Week and AELP, in association with NOCN, the conference was held at Birmingham’s International Convention Centre (ICC) and welcomed a number of prominent  keynote speakers including Minister for Skills, Alex Burghart, Ofsted Chief Inspector, Amanda Spielman and, Shadow Skills & Apprenticeships Minister, Toby Perkins MP.

This year’s conference took place at a critical time for the UK as individuals and businesses emerge from the pandemic. The principal theme of AAC 2022 was ‘Building Back Better’, with a series of plenary sessions and workshops that covered insight into areas such as apprenticeship funding, achievement rates and changes to current SME systems.

Awards dinner and high commendation

The team also attended a gala dinner and awards ceremony where they were nominated and received high commendation for their outstanding contribution to the development of apprenticeships.

Lee Pryor, Director of Apprenticeships, praised the team for the accomplishment and for the work being done to promote and deliver apprenticeships across the region.

“We are truly honoured to have been shortlisted among some of the top education and training providers in the country, for playing our part in the development of apprenticeships.

“We want to be the go-to provider that supports people to take their careers to the next level, and delivering the future workforce in health and social care, engineering, construction, hospitality, travel and more, is one of our key priorities.”

The levelling up and skills agenda

Meanwhile, in his opening address, Alex Burghart MP spoke about the factors that will be needed to make levelling up a success in this generation.

He said: “One of the central factors will be skills. Skills will transform lives, they will transform communities, they will attract business and investment opportunities, improve national productivity and national competitiveness, and apprenticeships will be front and centre in that mission.”

The minister, who is responsible for overseeing further education providers, T Levels,  apprenticeships and adult education, said that the trajectory for progress was ‘in the right place’.

“We are making progress and getting back to where we should be. Nationally, the picture is bright and the latest figures reveal that in the first quarter of this academic year, 164,000 people started apprenticeships, which is 34% higher than the previous year and crucially six percent higher than before the pandemic.”

Alex Burghart, also added that the government intends to reevaluate the apprenticeship application process for young people to make it easier to navigate. Through this, the government hopes to see more young people choose apprenticeships as a post-school progression route.

Other keynote speakers included Jennifer Copeland, Chief Executive,Institute for Apprenticeships, who covered key issues around quality training, diverse workforces, the operation of the levy and how we can make apprenticeships work for everyone.

She said: “Our task is to ensure apprenticeships work for everyone.

“We need to take those commitment statements signed by the employer, apprentice and provider and really honour them. We also need to do more to support young apprentices to stay on their apprenticeship by demonstrating the value and training that they are getting, and mentoring them through those life events that might tip over into a decision to drop out.”

Apprenticeships are important to recovery

Ofsted’s chief inspector, Amanda Speilman, used her address to talk about how the pandemic showed how important all industries and services in the UK are and how the country’s collective skills base responded quickly to the crisis.

She also spoke about the future of Ofsted and how apprenticeships  play a critical role when it comes to having a skilled workforce that will deliver for Britain now and in the future.

Amanda said: “Apprenticeships have never been more important both for pandemic recovery and for future growth and prosperity.

“We will continue to play our part. Inspecting without fear or favour; by highlighting and celebrating where we find the best provisions  and by reporting honestly on providers that aren’t giving apprentices and employers the training they deserve.

The levy needs reassessing so that young people have a real opportunity 

David Hughes, CEO of the Association of Colleges, spoke about the need for the delivery of skills that employers need, removing bureaucracy and making apprenticeship funding accessible. While Shadow Minister for Skills and Apprenticeships, Toby Perkins MP, reiterated that the apprenticeship levy is in need of reform and that collectively, there is a need to build a skills system that ensures that more young people across communities have access to apprenticeship opportunities.

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