Apprenticeships have a long-standing reputation as a reliable training tool, usually associated with young learners entering a profession.
While this is indeed one role for apprenticeships in workforce development, their potential is far greater than simply recruiting youngsters wishing to ‘earn and learn’.
The Department for Education described apprenticeship training as “the key to unlocking productivity” while last month’s National Apprenticeship Week ran under the theme “Build the Future”. Both these bold statements are true. Today’s apprenticeships have the potential to train older and more experienced colleagues right up to senior management level. They can attract strong candidates looking for a clear career pathway to the top and – importantly – have the power to retain top talent within an organisation.
When it comes to developing people’s skills and knowledge, future-proofing your workforce and retaining the best in the business, apprenticeships are hard to beat. And as we emerge from three successive COVID-19 lockdowns ready to rebuild our sector and workforce, their potential to help is hard to ignore.
“Workforce development has never been so important and apprenticeships have a key role to play in the rebuilding of our sector,” says Tad Chapman, head of end-point assessment at Active IQ. “Apprenticeships not only provide an excellent route into our industry but also a fantastic career pathway that will future-proof workforce development by retaining – as well as training – the best talent in an organisation.”
Hampering this, however, are many myths and misperceptions which need to be challenged before the leisure industry can fully realise the potential of apprenticeships.
“Despite the best efforts of Government, industry, leading training providers and awarding organisations like ourselves, common misperceptions remain. Also, apprenticeships are sometimes considered an afterthought or a quick route to free training,” says Tad.
“In fact, there are diverse and varied apprenticeships on offer from entry level right up to degree and management level,” he explains. “The idea you can start out as a lifeguard or gym instructor and train your way up to general manager or CEO isn’t far-fetched: the career pathway is clear and accessible.”
Releasing untapped potential
“Employers need to recognise the newest apprenticeship standards run from Level 2 – such as a community activator coach or leisure team member – right up to level 6 and 7, including chartered manager and senior leader,” says Tad. “The potential for apprentices to extend way beyond entry level recruitment and reach management and degree level is a valuable retention tool for operators and employers who can hold onto their brightest talent.”
Apprenticeships are an important growth area for the physical activity workforce with skills-based, on-the-job learning of immense value in these public-facing roles. In addition, Tad is seeing rising demand for sector-specific but non-physical-activity-based roles, such as customer service, digital skills, finance, warehousing and facilities management. “The whole sector needs to expand its view and recognise that apprenticeships can support all aspects of a leisure facility’s business,” he says. “At Active IQ we carry out end-point assessment for a broad range of sectors from transport to facilities management and there’s plenty to be learned from these industries and applied to the leisure trade.”
Back on track post-lockdown
Lockdown had a devastating impact on the leisure sector with facilities forced to close and a high percentage of staff put on furlough. On-the-job training suffered greatly as face-to-face interaction ground to a halt. Post-lockdown, restoring confidence in colleagues and members, reviving training programmes and renewing optimism will be key. Apprenticeships can help by offering a cost-effective, clearly mapped route to put people’s careers back on track. And after such uncertain and turbulent times, there’s a lot to be said for the structure and security offered by apprenticeships and the end-point assessment process.
Find out more: www.activeiq.co.uk