Over 40 of the UK’s largest employers have united to call for a change in terminology relating to off-the-job training, a core component of all apprenticeships. Writing to the Department for Education, the employers, coordinated by the UK’s largest apprenticeship provider, Lifetime Training, have called for policymakers to consider an alternative term which would have the backing of the sector and better reflect the modern day realities of apprenticeships.
An overwhelming majority of businesses with apprentices see workplace benefits across productivity, addressing skills shortages and diversity. But barriers to uptake remain, as do high rates of withdrawal; in part down to apprentices feeling unsupported in relation to training. Lifetime, together with partners including McDonald’s, B&Q, Wagamama’s, Whitbread, Tesco and Bupa, have identified that misconceptions around ‘off-the-job’ contribute to these barriers.
Signatories to the letter to policymakers point out that the term is out-dated, relating to previous models of training rather than the modern work-based approach. This results in a perception that training must be carried out at home or after-hours. A lack of support for completing ‘off-the-job’ training has been cited by apprentices as a key reason for withdrawing from their apprenticeship. In a Lifetime survey, employers emphasised that a lack of clarity is likely to be putting managers off proposing apprenticeships, and learners off pursuing them.
The campaign has received wide sector support from large apprenticeship levy paying employers, with 76% of Lifetime’s employer partners polled agreeing that a name change would have a high and positive impact on their business.
Sector bodies such as AELP (Association of Employment & Learning Providers), The 5% Club, The Institute of Hospitality have also provided their backing to a change in terminology.
Jon Graham, CEO at Lifetime Training, said: “We believe that a terminology change could help unlock significant potential across our economy, supporting apprenticeship take-up and retention in key sectors. There exists a fundamental mismatch between the word “off” and the requirement to complete this key aspect of apprenticeship learning ‘during’ and ‘within’ working hours, which generates misconceptions and tensions.”
Simon Ashworth, AELP Director of Policy, said: “AELP fully supports proposals to modernise the language used for apprenticeship training. The current terminology is outdated and no longer reflects how and where the broad range of training provision that exists across the apprenticeship programme can and does take place. This causes confusion for employers and learners alike so updating the language we use to describe dedicated time spent developing and learning new skills would be extremely welcome and impactful.”
Lauren Robbin, early careers and disadvantaged groups partner, Wagamama – “It’s a massive challenge for us. I truly believe that we would have a lot more learners if off-the-job training was better understood.”