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By Tad Chapman, Head of End Point Assessment, Active IQ

Apprenticeships are renowned for allowing learners to gain work experience and earn as they learn. And rightly so. Yet they are also still considered by some to be the ‘poor relation’ to a university degree, or a route designed for less-academic school leavers looking to learn a trade. This perception is inaccurate and needs to be challenged.

Today’s apprenticeships are designed to train bright and astute individuals, with Level 3 and Level 4 standards preparing them to become specialists and professionals within their chosen field.

No limits

There is indeed a diverse range of apprenticeships that will suit younger learners seeking to enter a practical profession. Given the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the job market, students are increasingly seeking stability and security. Apprenticeships constitute a viable pathway for this.

However, let’s not be limited by entry-level options. Higher-level apprenticeships deliver specialist and professional training, and support the generation of highly skilled workers across various fields. People seeking to further their career can now aspire to the higher Level 3 and Level 4 apprenticeship standards, in which the emphasis on professionalism and specialism gives them parity with other professional qualifications. Importantly, employers hold such training in very high regard and we are seeing a rise in demand for them.

Responding to demand

An example of this is the new Level 4 Sports Coach standard which we are the first to bring to market. This standard trains learners to use technical and tactical sports knowledge and skills to design and deliver coaching programmes that engage, motivate and evolve participants’ skills and performance. We initially planned for this to be live later this year but brought it forward to meet demand from employers whose post-pandemic recovery plans rely on having highly qualified sports coaches in place.

As the first end-point assessment organisation (EPAO) to gain approval for this standard from IFATE, we triggered the opening of the application process. The apprenticeship takes around 18 months to complete but, by its very nature, as apprentices sign up, their employers will be putting boots on the ground to help facilitate growth and advancement in their coaching.

Professionalism and specialism

Alongside this new Level 4 Sports Coach standard, we have also been approved for the Level 3 Customer Service Specialist to bring our growing EPA portfolio to 17 apprenticeship standards. The emphasis here is on this being for people seeking a role as a specialist – not simply a practitioner – making this another apprenticeship standard for people who are aiming high. One of our cross-sector apprenticeships, it is as relevant to transport, logistics and manufacturing as it is for the leisure sector and give apprentices valuable, transferable skills.

Coaching and customer service both require people to work one on one with individuals and teams. In such work there really is no substitute for gaining experience. As they train, apprentices will develop the skills and experience they need to start full-time work the moment they qualify. Meanwhile, employers can tailor their apprentices’ training to suit their exact needs. This way, everyone wins.

All about the journey

Apprenticeships are all about the journey. The practical on-the-job nature of the training helps people develop safely in the role, be absorbed in their environment and fully engaged in an employer-focused setting.

Following such training, individuals will be considerably better in their professional capacity at the point of exit compared to their point of entry – which is not necessarily the case with standalone classroom-based learning or vocational courses covered in just a few weeks.

Today’s apprenticeships are gaining recognition for their route to employment and a reputation for developing professionals and specialists through combining experience with education. The tide is turning in their favour and that is good to see.

View Active IQ’s EPA Prospectus here.

Active IQ is a member of the ukactive Strategic Partner Group – find out more here.

Disclaimer: Any views or opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of ukactive.