Why collaboration is key for shaping the skills network of the future
Claire Williams, Head of Employer Engagement at Calderdale College recently spoke to the Yorkshire Post about why apprenticeships are so crucial for the growth of the regional economy.
Read her thoughts on how the college works with employers to help them fill their skills gaps, and the important role that the Collaborative Apprenticeships project plays in this.
“Calderdale College trains 500 apprentices a year and works with 400 employers annually to help them place apprentices into their businesses. We talk a lot about the benefits that apprenticeships can bring to those enrolled in them, but this National Apprenticeship Week, we want to pause to consider the ways in which apprenticeships can enrich businesses, as well as the wider regional economy. Key to this success is collaboration, not just between apprentices and businesses, but with colleges such as ourselves as well.
“We engage with a number of businesses across the region, from two to three person SMEs to the likes of large employers such as Calderdale Council, West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service, Covéa Insurance and The Piece Hall. This engagement can be done in a number of ways, be that through event attendance, outbound marketing or direct enquiry. Our approach puts the employer’s need front of mind: what are their ambitions? What skills do they need to meet these ambitions? How can we help?
“We also look at priorities nationally, regionally and locally, and develop our apprenticeship curriculum around that. Taking all of this information into account, we then create a tailored training plan which marries our offer with their business needs, goals and ambitions.
“For many employers, this offer often sounds too good to be true, and they automatically assume it must be costly and time consuming: two of the main concerns in today’s society, particularly if you’re a smaller business.
“Employers often tell us that one of the main reasons they don’t consider recruiting apprentices is because of the time it will take to recruit the right people, so to take the pressure off and help employers get the most out of hiring an apprentice, we offer a free end-to-end recruitment service.
“It’s a win-win: not only are employers saving themselves valuable time, but they also don’t have to pay any additional costs typically associated with recruitment.
“We’re passionate about promoting partnership between employers and further education institutions because when we work together, everybody benefits. Not only do apprentices bring a huge amount of creativity and passion to the businesses they work within, but tailoring our offer to the skills needs of employers means that we are able to work together to shape the workforce of the future, in turn driving inward investment.
“The partnership is mutually beneficial: employers give us valuable insight into the skills landscape, which we then use to shape our curriculum, ensuring they can fill skills gaps and hire the best possible talent.
“Alongside this, we give businesses the opportunity to directly engage with and shape the curriculum according to their employment needs. This in turn reduces training and development time for apprentices when they come to work in their businesses, as they’ve already had the chance to learn the required skills during their college studies.
“So, in supporting employers to in turn support their apprentices, we’re helping to fill gaps in the labour market, as well as anticipating future skills needs, ensuring that we can successfully develop the workforce of the future.
“All of these factors have influenced the launch of our Collaborative Apprenticeships project, funded by the European Social Fund (ESF) and managed by the West Yorkshire Consortium of Colleges (WYCC), which seeks to support employers in Calderdale and its surrounding areas to increase the quantity and improve the quality of the apprenticeships they offer. Understanding the impact that apprenticeships can provide the regional economy, we wanted to give employers the opportunity to further upskill their apprentices for free.
“More than supporting just the future of individual businesses and employees, it’s also developing the wider labour market and skills of the future by giving apprentices a more well-rounded experience and providing opportunities for them to do additional courses that employers may not otherwise be able to afford.
“With opportunities to undertake fully funded training in areas such as Mental Health First Aid, our approach enables apprentices to develop new skills, work towards their career aspirations and bolster their own CVs, while also allowing businesses to reap the rewards that come when you have diverse skill sets within the workforce.
“And it’s an approach which is clearly paying off! Our 2023 Ofsted Report has ranked Calderdale College Outstanding in Adult Education and Education for Young People, noting that apprentices with the college successfully develop the knowledge, skills and behaviours required to allow them to confidently and effectively contribute to their workplaces.
“What’s more, we’ve been ranked Strong in our contribution to meeting skills needs, the highest rank that can be awarded. This metric, which Ofsted only introduced in September 2022, measures the extent to which colleges are responsive not only to employer needs and opportunities, but to local and regional skills priorities more widely.
“As one of the first colleges in the country to have been ranked Strong in its commitment to meeting skills needs, we want to reiterate that the importance of collaboration between employers and further education providers cannot be overstated. After all, it’s only by working together that we can create a regional economy that not only meets business and skills priorities, but provides opportunities for everybody, no matter their background, to thrive.”
To find out more about the Collaborative Apprenticeships project and the support that it can offer your business, please click here.