I have written before, on a number of occasions, about how I believe there is a serious disconnect between education and business.Every week my recruitment department is inundated by applications from thousands of young people who want an apprenticeship at Pimlico Plumbers. A decent number of the applicants are pretty good, but we also look beyond their exam results to see if they have the spark underneath the surface to be a successful Pimlico plumber, carpenter, accountant, mechanic etc. I believe it takes a strong mix of influence from parents and the education system to help prepare young people for work. It’s never an even balance, some are more influenced by one than the other, but I’d bet on a lot of occasions home life will outweigh what happens in the classroom or lecture hall. And, of course, there’s nothing wrong with that and is evidenced in my business by the number of parents who contact me trying to get their son or daughter a job. It’s worth saying though, I never consider applications from parental-pushed candidates. If they need their mum to write to me what sort of self-motivated worker would they be? So while parents can be supportive, education should be guiding and help shape young people, not just with the core subjects, but with social and life skills mixed with practical, applicable skills that will benefit them and their future employers.
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That is what businesses want and need. But it’s not a one-way street where businesses only complain about the education system, they also have to do something about it.Establishing apprenticeship programmes is one essential part of this. It sends a message to the education establishment that this is the kind of training businesses need and they have to change if they’re going to remain relevant and this country can remain competitive. And apprenticeship programmes, with the practical training provided by the employer and the assessment, validation and qualifications delivered by a college or independent training company, are the best example of closing the gap between business and education. Businesses of all sizes can follow this route, which will be made easier when the Apprenticeship Levy kicks in with large businesses contributing to a fund that will help create trainees at small firms. Some large companies have complained about the levy, but others have taken a much wider view, which has the potential to change the way education and business interacts and I was delighted to discover that one such partnership is happening right on my doorstep. At the end of National Apprenticeship Week, Lambeth College announced that it had selected one of the UK’s biggest construction companies, Carillion, to be its partner to redevelop its site in Vauxhall. But not only will Carillion, in collaboration with Arlington Real Estate, redevelop the college site, which is next to the superb Nine Elms development, it is going to work in partnership with the college to create a new Construction Skills Academy. It will help to address the skills shortages in commercial and domestic construction and make young people work-ready by training them in a practical environment. Carillion will also engage its supply chains, SMEs and the wider construction industry to promote and encourage their staff to train at the skills academy. This is a fantastic opportunity for all involved; the college, its students, Carillion, its supply chain and, ultimately, the economy. The mayor’s office has already given its backing with £22.5m funding towards the project and I would urge others to get behind it too. The college and Carillion should be applauded for their ambition to create something that can become a blueprint for other such collaborations. And others should follow, our future depends on it.
If supporting youngsters is something you’d like to do, here are five recommendations for future-proofing apprenticeships in your business.
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