16 March 2008
Working together to boost Apprenticeship completions
We are well aware of the vital importance of work-based learning in combating existing skills shortages. The Government sees Apprenticeships as the successful route to skilled employment. Yet improving the completion rates among young apprentices remains a key challenge for the Ministerial Steering Group for Apprenticeships. As a result, Quality Improvement Agency (QIA) commissioned ORC International to conduct a comprehensive programme of research.
Drawing on 18 case studies of Apprenticeship Programmes, the research sought to examine how learning providers effectively managed to boost the completion rates. Although we were primarily keen to explore their reasons and motivations, it was also crucial to find out what they did in practical terms.
Apart from establishing the driving factors behind the improvements in completion rates, our research aimed to determine whether these were similar across sectors. We also assessed various models used to deliver Apprenticeships and looked at industry-specific issues related to Apprenticeship completions.
The triangle of success
Fundamentally, the research highlighted the importance of the quality and nature of relationships between the three main participants in Apprenticeship provision, namely learners, employers and providers. Learning providers participating in this research found that developing tripartite working arrangements was vital for high quality learner experiences and increasing completion rates.
It takes three to make it work
Although no single factor was considered by learning providers to be solely responsible for increased Apprenticeship completion rates, five main areas were consistently identified as having been particularly important in improving full framework completions:
- Recruitment processes
- Quality management and assurance systems
- Pattern of programme delivery, including the front loading of taught and tested elements
- Employer involvement
- Staff reviews, recruitment, team building and ongoing professional development.
It appears that bringing together learners, employers and providers is fundamental to initiating an improvement trend in completion rates.
Learning the lesson
So what’s a remedy for success? First, learning providers need to get buy-in and commitment for change from senior leaders. Having achieved this, they need to carefully plan out the specific aspects of the five broad areas:
- Programme restructuring
- Staff quality issues
- Recruitment process
- Quality management
- Employer involvement
National policies and initiatives were also found to have had an important role to play in increasing completion rates but were evidently mediated by senior leadership teams before reaching the participants in this research.
The final report, Assessing the reasons for improvements in Apprenticeship completions, is available on the QIA website, and can be reached by visiting QIA’s Excellence Gateway.