The relationship dynamic between learner and provider is different if the learner is an apprentice.
On a traditional programme, the relationship is between the provider and the learner. The University and the student is a good example of that dynamic. Likewise the A Level learner and their local FE College is another. This dynamic is about how each side views their responsibilities towards each other.
When we come to apprentices the dynamic is different, the relationship dynamic is between the provider and the employer, and the employer has a different kind of relationship to the apprentice, that of an employer. The responsibilities in this case are different and are recognised by providers who have been working with employers for many years.
We know talking to colleges that many have established processes and procedures for communicating the progress of apprentices with the apprentices’ employers.
Employers have also spoken about how they communicate with providers about the progress of their apprentices.
Suppliers of proprietary software that records the progress of apprentices talk about the functionality that enables different views for apprentices, providers and employers.
However there is a different perspective that is going to shift this dynamic and that is the proposed increase in the number (and type) of apprentices.
Apprenticeships is a growth area undergoing massive reform, with a government target of three million starts by 2020 and the implementation of the post-16 skills plan. This is a tenfold increase from the current level of 300,000 apprentices.
What this could mean for employers is that an employer that maybe had five apprentices in one vocational area may suddenly find they have fifty apprentices across multiple vocational areas. Rather than working with a single provider, they may find themselves with multiple providers across different apprenticeships and different levels.
We will also see new employers who traditionally not employed apprentices, but with the introduction of the employer levy will want to make use of this funding for probably existing staff, but also potentially new apprentices. The employer levy funding began in April 2017 is estimated at £2.5bn, a billion pounds larger than now. Whichever route they go down will mean that they will be engaging with providers on apprenticeship programmes.
This all means that though existing systems and processes, which are working fine, may not necessarily be fit for purpose over the next three years and beyond. It is in this landscape that the Digital Apprenticeships project Jisc is working on will emerge to support providers to fulfil the changing needs of employers.