Andy Cheshire looks at Apprenticeship Delivery

Apprenticeships are thorough development programmes for new joiners or existing staff to learn a significant new skillset for a job role. They are typically delivered over a long period to allow knowledge, skills and behaviours to embed. But are we getting the delivery methodology wrong for the customers i.e. the apprentice and the employer?

The world is moving faster which means that knowledge transfer needs to react to that. There is a risk that as an apprentice moves through a longer programme, the knowledge required for their role is not what was originally planned. Sometimes apprentices get restless and leave their role before completing, which is a tragic waste of resources for the employer and may be wasted effort for the apprentice. For some apprentices, it might seem like a long distance race.

Agile is a methodology which was borne out of software development but is being increasingly used in project management implementations. It is an iterative and interactive process which speeds development and increases the quality of the delivered implementation through trialing and testing with a focussed team. Each focussed mini-development is called a ‘sprint’ and future sprints build off earlier sprints (rather than the macro-planning which normally takes place on projects).

What does this mean for apprenticeships? Could we think about them very differently by immersing apprentices into learning sprints, where knowledge, skills and behaviour are being interactively tested and developed with the support of mentors and training providers? An apprenticeship might be divided into half a dozen sprints rather than one long programme. It would need more focussed resource from apprentice, employer and training provider but the rate of learning could be stellar. The apprentice would feel more valued and excited by the programme and would develop, perhaps more transferrable skills in this faster moving workplace. The risks for all parties would paradoxically be less with improved outcomes all round.

Of course, this could challenge the wisdom of design of existing Standards where the recommended length is clearly defined. Could superior outcomes be achieved in less than a year for level 2 standards? And End Point Assessment should not need to change at all as after all that sprinting and reflection, a final demonstration of performance should be relatively easy for the apprentice.