Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

WorldSkills Can Lead the Way on Apprenticeships

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

WorldSkills Can Lead the Way on Apprenticeships

Article excerpt

The competition provides the perfect opportunity to develop and promote world-class skills in the UK

Nearly three months have passed since the electorate cast their votes in the historic EU referendum, signalling the end of the UK's 43-year relationship with the EU. But as the dust settles in the post-Brexit world, what does this mean for the apprenticeship programme in the UK?

Before the referendum, there was much discussion about the negative impact a leave vote would have on apprenticeships in this country. Many believed that the proposed levy could not go ahead, while others called for the target of 3 million apprenticeship starts by 2020 to be urgently reviewed.

However, a different picture is starting to emerge. The progression of the apprenticeship levy, announced last month, is testament to this.

I believe that, rather than sounding a death knell, the new environment we find ourselves in has created a real opportunity to align the apprenticeship programme with the new global economic ambitions of the UK.

Attracting more inward investment and concluding new trade deals is a key part of the government's economic strategy, and we need a strong skills narrative to support these ambitions.

Research shows that businesses with a presence in this country, and hence direct experience of our workforce, tend to rate skills in the UK higher than those organisations that do not have UK-based operations. This certainly supports my experiences of working with potential investors and trade partners. When I was the deputy director-general of the CBI, I was frequently told by companies who were seeking to invest in the UK for the first time that their concern was the supply of a highly skilled workforce.

The issue of quality has long divided opinion on apprenticeship reforms, and I have no doubt that this debate will continue. …

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