Enabling a more flexible 20% through digital

apprentices working together As we see a growth in apprenticeships there is not just greater awareness amongst providers about the 20% off-the-job training (or learning) but also amongst both employers and the apprentices themselves.

The default appears to be a day release at a college or university. Some more innovative apprenticeships front-load the training and for some the training or learning is done in blocks over the year.

These structured approaches are designed to ensure that the 20% requirement is met across the apprenticeship journey, but this structure can be a blocker or barrier to agility across the apprentice, the employer and even the provider. Also for smaller organisations, this structure could be problematic when there are challenges and everyone is needed at the workplace and the training could be done at a later date in quieter times. Often though the structure is set by the provider and both the employer and the apprentice have to accept that. That acceptance often means that demand for more flexible and innovative delivery mechanisms doesn’t arise or isn’t met.

If however providers from the start think about flexibility then they will soon realise that this flexibility needs to be designed and built into the system from the start. Digital technologies can play a critical and crucial role in enabling that flexibility and potentially minimising the potential challenges and barriers that a more structured approach can have.

apprentices working together

Though many people prefer in person face to face communication, it is not always the most efficient mechanism for all kinds of communication. Using audio and video tools such as Skype or Zoom.

With a cohort of apprentices, potentially across a number of employers, meeting once a week at college isn’t necessarily going to help them bond as group. Often these cohorts will self-organise and create their own Facebook groups, use tools such as Slack, but encouraging apprentices to do this and also be inclusive can improve cohort collaboration and cohesion over the course of the apprenticeship and beyond.

Providing updates using tools other than just e-mail will ensure that valuable and important messages don’t get lost, especially if the apprentice is working in an organisation where they get a lot of e-mail.

Not all learning has to happen in a classroom or workshop, there are lots of ways to use digital to deliver learning. Though many people enjoy the social aspects and actual physical experience of coming together, this may not always be possible. Using digital for remote delivery can ensure that content can be delivered to wherever (or even whenever) the apprentice is. Often these tools increase the scope for group work and collaborative learning.

Digital technologies can also be used to enhance and expand traditionaldelivery and to make it more engaging and interactive for apprentices. Digital can enable replication or simulation of authentic tasks that would otherwise be too costly or practically difficult to do in a traditional setting or where there are safety considerations. Similarly activities that were previously seasonal can now be practised all year round.


Digital can also make use of what would otherwise be redundant time, for example travelling to work or training. Using video recordings, podcasts or electronic texts, can enable apprentices to engage with learning whilst on the move and travelling.

Digital technologies for delivery and communication can provide flexibility for the 20% off-the-job training that will benefit employers, providers and importantly the apprentices.

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