Apprenticeships- An industrial past or a digital future?


This is a guest post from Bob Harrison

Apprentices have been a central element of our Education and Training system for hundreds of years. The design principles which underpin the various iterations of “Apprenticeships” however are predicated on a mindset shaped by the industries of the time. Starting with Agriculture and then during the Industrial revolution dominated by the heavy industries of Shipbuilding, Textiles, Mining, Steel and Engineering amongst others.

Consequently the thinking behind the design and delivery of the education, training and assessment systems reflected the processes in those industries. Some people describe this approach as “Taylorism” or “Fordism”

As a result the pedagogical processes were understandably reflective of the time.

When I taught my first Motor Vehicle apprentices in Sheffield in 1981 I was blessed by the availability of two rooms of BBC microcomputers conveniently empty on Friday afternoons as Business Studies tutors liked their long weekends in their caravans.

Nowadays the motor vehicle apprentices carry around in their overalls (usually white coats now) mobile devices a hundred times more powerful and with connectivity to the world of knowledge than those two rooms of BBC micros combined.

And therein lies the rub. Have the learning and assessment design principles , pedagogical processes and delivery methods kept pace with the potential technologies have to offer?

Apprenticeships are currently flavour of the year for FE and we have a window of opportunity to reflect on how we can design and deliver the learning and assessment to support apprentices by exploiting the potential of digital technologies?

This will require a “paradigm shift” by those policy makers, funding agencies, providers, awarding bodies, teachers and assessors and that will need support.

Jisc have years of experience, resources and the expertise to support this essential paradigm shift so the 3million apprentices will be fit for a digital future and not an industrial past.

Bob Harrison Chair of Governors Northern College, Board member UfI Trust, ALT FE Ambassador, Member of the DCMS Cyber Skills Advisory Group.
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