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Designing quality pre-apprenticeship programmes

Anyone thinking of undertaking an apprenticeship may consider doing a pre-apprenticeship first.  A pre-apprenticeship is a program designed to prepare an individual to enter and succeed in an apprenticeship.  Pre-apprenticeships started in the 1970’s and were originally designed to help more women take up apprenticeships in the construction industry where they represented only 3% of the workforce.

Today, pre-apprenticeship programs are more widely available and for a variety of different reasons.  For example, an employer in a particular area may design a pre-apprenticeship program to help it find local residents who are not quite apprenticeship ready – the program can provide a much-needed pipeline of entry-level candidates for future apprenticeship jobs.  Other programs might be specifically designed and tailored to support young people, ex-service men and women, those with disabilities, or adults looking to re-skill and enter the workforce.

All pre-apprenticeship programs generally feature specialist support to help those furthest from the labour market get apprenticeship-ready.  They generally last for a number of weeks or months and are designed to give individuals the skills, confidence and connections they need to be successful in a whole range of industries.

So what makes a quality pre-apprenticeship programme?

A quality pre-apprenticeship program will have at its core a number of key strategies:

Partnerships Strategy:  Identifying and establishing critical partnerships with businesses, industry groups, apprenticeship providers and other education organisations, organisations providing local labour market intelligence, local charities and other community organisations will enrich the program.  Each partner will bring different resources to the table and help to raise the visibility of the program and improve the experience of the individuals taking part.

Recruitment and Selection Strategy:  Effective outreach and marketing is crucial to attracting prospective participants to the pre-apprenticeship program – think about what might work best given your target audience and speak to your partners to identify ways they can help with this (using partner social media accounts to promote is incredibly effective).  You will want to choose suitable candidates who are motivated and willing to complete the program and become quality candidates who are apprenticeship-ready.

Program Strategy:  A pre-apprenticeship program should include at least two vital components:  entry level skills based on industry standards; and job readiness skills (sometimes known as soft skills).  Both components should be tailored to support the specific apprenticeship pathway(s) that successful candidates who complete are likely to enter.  For example, apprenticeships that require proficiency in maths will require candidates, who don’t have the requisite skills, to develop a maths competency such as Level 2 functional skills as part of the pre-apprenticeship program.  Soft-skills training should also mirror the likely environment candidates who progress on to an apprenticeship will experience: these will likely include showing up on time, dressing appropriately for the workplace, effective communication and teamwork.  Using vocabulary that is relevant to the apprenticeships that candidates are preparing for will also be useful.

Retention Strategy:  Some individuals enrolled in the pre-apprenticeship program may have barriers to employment success.  Through the program and the critical partnerships, you should aim to help candidates learn to manage these challenges so they can succeed.  Strategies may include:  signposting individuals to suitable support via partner organisations; setting goals for candidates at the start of the program and developing specific career plans to help them remain focused during discouraging times; providing businesses offering placements / work experience to individuals in the pre-apprenticeship programme with mental health awareness training so that they increase their resilience and ability to deal with mental health issues should these arise.

Sustainability Strategy:  Ultimately, the pre-apprenticeship program is designed to help more people get apprenticeship-ready.  Gather data that demonstrates the achievement and outcomes of program participants.  Speak to the businesses who provide apprenticeships to those individuals who successfully complete the pre-apprenticeship program.  Use social media to highlight the success of the program in order to attract funding, sponsors, partnerships and to recruit new particpants.

Start with the end in mind.

A well-designed pre-apprenticeship program should start with the end in mind.  That means identifying how many people it will support, over what period of time, and into how many (and what type of) apprenticeships.  It will involve multiple partners who bring a wide range of resources to the program and are committed to workforce training, improving education and economic development.  For individuals, the program will provide a bridge to apprenticeship jobs and career advancement.  For employers, it will provide candidates who are apprenticeship ready, saving time and money on recruitment and training and reducing turnover rates.

Ultimately, a good quality pre-apprenticeship program will deliver by helping those individuals who want to succeed, overcome their individual barriers, get through the programme and access apprenticeship jobs.

If you would like support developing your pre-apprenticeship programmes, contact Rubitek on 0330 133 0540.

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