BEST chief executive argues case for broader view of apprenticeships

‘Apprenticeships must be seen not just as a device for locking individuals into a unitary skill but as a device for unlocking the talent for personal career leadership inside young people,’ according to Dr Mark Brenner, chief executive of Building Engineering Services Training (BEST). Speaking at the National Apprenticeship Conference in February, Dr Brenner focused on the benefits of dual vocational and academic routes to provide a third route to higher education and professionalism, whereby apprentices can progress up a professional career path.

Acknowledging the requirement of the building-services industry for people with craft skills, he argued, ‘It needs those self-same people to climb the ladder of personal ambition, diversify up into new managerial skills and organise their own integrated businesses to meet ever-evolving customer need.

‘All of us with a stake in the whole business of restocking and upscaling our national skills base must be vigorous advocates of academic and vocational convergence.’

Dr Brenner expressed concern about the small proportion of 25 to 28-year-olds with vocational qualifications compared with France and Germany — 30% less at level 2 or above and 60% less than Germany at level 3 and above.

He warned, ‘The UK’s relative weakness is all the more stark as national unemployment edges towards three million — with all that such a figure implies for those young people trying to get their first foothold in the labour market.

‘OECD studies show that the youth-to-adult unemployment ratio remains low in countries with strong apprenticeship systems. We just need to import more of that logic into our whole skills culture in the UK.’

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