“Learning is not compulsory but neither is survival,” agreed Gavin Richardson, founder and managing director of north-east electrical contractor Opus Building Services, who has taken on 20 apprentices, from electricians and engineers to plumbers, and has two project managers who are considering the Chartered Manager Degree Apprenticeship (CMDA).
Richardson said apprenticeships have helped increase buy-in to L&D at Opus and bolstered staff retention, too. “Apprenticeships are a fantastic opportunity for every business,” he said. “The way I explain it to staff is that we’re in a race, and if you learn a way to be one second ahead of your competitor, you stand more of a chance of winning.”
The British Army view
At the British Army, Brigadier Suzanne Anderson, head of individual development, explained how they are “training for certainty, but educating for uncertainty”. The army follows a “whole life development framework” for its L&D activities as it attracts, recruits, trains, develops, retains and transitions its people into civilian life.
Anderson explained the value of apprenticeships in demonstrating the value of its L&D to the outside world:
“One of the areas we struggle with is converting understanding of our internal training programmes into something that people outside the organisation can recognise,” said Anderson, who described how the army has been working with CMI and other awarding bodies to map every technical trade training course it offers, as well as leadership and management training, against external accreditations.
“It ensures that each time a soldier goes on a course, they have the chance to gain a certified national qualification alongside their army training,” she explained. “It allows us to demonstrate to ourselves and to our workforce the value of that L&D, and is a huge help to our soldiers when they leave the army and try to find a job on civvy street.”