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Apprenticeships in UK – It is the combination of on- and off-the job training elements that contribute to its success

Understanding the potential contribution of time spent undertaking on- and off-the-job training to meet identified learning needs, their relative advantages and the inter-relationship between sector skills and development opportunities is particularly pertinent today due to recent developments in apprenticeships in England – the government’s flagship skills training programme undertaken by over 800,000 employees.

policy mandates both a minimum period of participation (12 months), and for at least 20% of the duration of every programme to comprise engagement in off-the-job learning, regardless of industry or the specification or ‘standard’ that an apprentice is following for their job role.

This report draws together existing literature with new evidence from fifteen interviews with apprenticeship experts to present a contemporary analysis of trends, thinking and practice in off- and on- the job learning and training. It focuses in particular on on-the-job, as this is relatively less well-understood, is under-researched and yet comprises up to 80% of time spent on apprenticeships.

The report finds that:

» the quality of on-the-job training and learning support is paramount to success but has received little attention post-2017 reforms. On-the-job experience and training are felt to be at least as important, if not more so than off-the-job as this is where the rounded skills, knowledge and behaviours for the application of skills in the real world are fully developed.

» the design of apprenticeship delivery must concentrate on what works in terms of output impact, as opposed to adherence to design norms based on previous iterations of pedagogy.
» for on-the-job learning to maximise its potential within apprenticeships it is clear that a blended approach with off-the-job elements is vital, and that a standard approach to how this can be achieved must be formulated that can be adopted by all parties supporting the apprenticeship.
» feedback is widely felt to be strongly connected if not almost synonymous with on-the-job training by employers. It appears to be the active ingredient that turns knowledge into applied skills.

The report makes five major recommendations:

1. It is the combination of on- and off-the job training elements that contribute to the success of an apprenticeship, not the absolute amount or proportion of either, and it is this that should be the priority in apprenticeship design. Off-the-job is perhaps too simplistic a measure of learning hours to cope with the needs of work-based development in the 21st century. We recommend “Apprenticeship development time” as a more useful metric to use within such programmes than ambiguous and relatively arbitrary definitions of “off”-“ and “on-“ the job that do not ultimately help to reinforce the actual experience of learning.

2. On-the-job training and learning are extremely significant but under-recognised.
AELP, City and Guilds Group and sector partners should take every opportunity to disseminate and/or help further develop its benefits and advantages.

3. The balance between the on- and off-the job training and learning varies considerably between sectors and levels of study, and this should be more widely investigated and embraced. The “one size fits all” approach of 20% of contracted working hours in all sectors at all levels is unhelpful and should be reviewed as soon as possible.

4.Major coordinated efforts are required to support employers who are willing to be involved and understand potential benefits to their business but do not have the work-based learning expertise to deliver successful on-the-job learning. This will be easier to achieve without artificial delineations between on- and off-the- job learning, particularly where these give rise to predefined roles for employers and learning providers.

5. If a delineation between on- and off-the-job learning remains within apprenticeship delivery regulations, then the rules on what each comprises should therefore be reviewed to consider relaxing the restrictions on out of core hours study being ineligible as off-the-job training.

Chosen excerpts by Job Market Monitor. Read the whole story @ The value of on-the-job training in apprenticeships

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