In praise of National Apprenticeship Week

Read our love letter to National Apprenticeship Week on this its tenth anniversary.

It’s 2008. The Great Britain team is competing at the Olympics in Beijing. It’s the golden age of the reality TV talent show and Alexandra Burke’s ‘Hallelujah’ is the bestselling single of the year. High Street store Woolworths are closing their doors for the last time and Gordon Brown is the Prime Minister. With his support, the very first National Apprenticeship Week is launched by the National Apprenticeship Service.

Created to celebrate apprenticeships and the positive impact they have on individuals and businesses, the event was introduced to raise the profile of apprenticeships amongst employers, individuals, teachers, parents and the media. Grand in ambition as that vision is, the week long initiative has naturally existed against the political and economic backdrop of the times.

Apprenticeships and further education generally has seen more changes than most in its structure, scope and funding over the decade National Apprenticeship Week has been running. None more far reaching than the introduction of the apprenticeship levy next month and the imminent phasing-in of the new business led apprenticeship standards.

There has also been a huge acceleration in take-up and provision of apprenticeships over the past few years which has brought apprenticeships firmly under the political spotlight. This was partly as a result of government-led initiatives prompted by economic necessity, and partly due to changes in tertiary education, with rises in university fees being a key factor in the regeneration of the apprenticeship.

But in spite of that tumultuous backdrop, with its central aim one of celebration, National Apprenticeship Week is, and has always been, primarily a chance to focus on apprentices themselves and to showcase the true value of apprenticeships in our businesses and society.

Apprenticeships have come a long way, and are continuing to grow and diversify. Job seekers considering an apprenticeship as a means to entry into their chosen industry today are part of a long and exciting tradition.

National Apprenticeship Week gives everyone involved the chance to take a breath and celebrate that tradition - no matter what the economic or political drivers of the time. It throws open a closed window to cast light on the contribution apprentices make. Through the many local events taking place and social media and print coverage, it also encourages a new influx of apprentices - from all walks to life - to consider apprenticeships as a viable career development option and just perhaps, sign up.

Skills Minister Robert Halfon launched the 10th anniversary 2017 event by saying “National Apprenticeship Week is about celebrating the best in apprenticeships and traineeships. The week highlights the vital role apprenticeships and traineeships play in giving people from all backgrounds a ladder of opportunity.”

And that can only be a good thing.