With some providers going to the wall one can only imagine the impact this is likely to be having on their learners. It raises questions about how we can help our apprentices during such times and perhaps even prevent them from having to deal with such turmoil. Below are a few suggestions we hope you find useful.
Choose your partner provider wisely
The most important thing is to ensure you are choosing the best provider for your apprentices. This means taking the time to do the proper research.
Our recommendations are to look carefully at success rates and Ofsted reports, take references and gain reviews and reports where possible from employees and current/former students. Make sure you have thought carefully about the kind of provider you want to partner with, perhaps even drawing up a list of criteria you wish them to meet and questions you wish them to answer. Try and meet as many as you can on your shortlist. Take a tour, meet staff and students, ask challenging questions designed to give you as much information as possible from which to make a decision.
It is important not to take success rates and Ofsted grades at face value or as the whole picture about a provider. Check the date on the report, look further into the success rates (Are they consistent? Are they uniform? Where are they in relation to national averages?) and also look at their intake figures. If learner numbers have ballooned in a short space of time, it should raise flags of alarm and be a cause for concern. Look for those providing quality education consistently over a period of time.
Learner health checks
Checking in with a learner’s emotional and educational well-being can be easily postponed or forgotten in light of providing quality education and training and ensuring standards of work are met, but they are also vital. It can be easy to compartmentalise and separate what they do with, and for, their training provider and what they do with and for yourselves, but there is a vital role you can play. It is important that your apprentices know they can discuss any issues or concerns they have about the service their provider is supplying them, the teaching they are receiving and the work they have to complete. How else will you know if they need support?
The provider and the employer need to work as a team to the advantage of the apprentice. If one side is slacking or struggling then the other two need to work together or do what they can. Particularly as an apprentice’s emotional and educational well-being will have as much effect on their work, performance, and chance of success as their physical health.
One way of conducting learner health checks would be through a mentor and their regular meetings and contact with the apprentice, or through anonymous surveys about the quality of service and training provided. End of unit/module feedback could also be used to determine how an apprentice is feeling.
Regular meetings with apprentices
It is important that regular meetings with apprentices are a requirement. Not only are they useful for tracking progress and understanding, ensuring high standards and any access arrangements are met, but they are useful for gaining insight into the apprentice as a whole person and whereabouts on their learner journey they are on.
Furthermore, by having regular meetings you facilitate the apprentice’s journey as a whole, supply them with a safe place to raise concerns and promote the perception that you care about your apprentice’s experience and potential.
A mentor who takes the time to make sure the apprentice feels valued and supported, that they are there for them even if it’s about something outside the workplace, and that they aren’t just another item on the to-do list to get ticked off, is more likely to learn about any potential problems the apprentice is having outside work or with the training provider.
You should be receiving regular reports about your apprentices from your staff in charge of their training and the provider. A lot of insight can be gained from the reports, including how frequent and detailed they are, and can also act as a sort of early warning system regarding your apprentice or the provider. Only when you are aware of an issue can you deal with it and put systems in place to shield the vulnerable.
Shielding your apprentices
Why is it important to shield your apprentices from turmoil within the FE sector? Simply put, an apprentice usually has enough to worry about in terms of developing their skills to the correct standard and completing assignments to a satisfactory level, and keeping up with work and deadlines, that worrying about what is going on within the FE sector is not necessary and should be avoided. That being said, that doesn’t mean keeping them in the dark if there is an issue which concerns them, just to shield them from unnecessary concerns. It can begin as simply as making sure they feel part of your team and that they aren’t ‘outsiders’ without value. Or it can be more complicated through using your HR and other services to protect their interests, ensure they are safe (e.g. if providers are not adequately protecting learners’ digital need and information) and that they are being treated fairly.
They are your apprentice, they need to know they’re on your side and that will go a long way to helping them feel shielded and able to act to the best of their abilities.