By Justine Kenny
10 February, 2023
This was originally written for and first published in Schools Week, Friday 10 February 2023.
This National Apprenticeship Week we wanted to shine a light on the value schools can achieve by investing in creating apprenticeship opportunities to both recruit and upskill staff.
Within the education sector, there is a wide range of job roles and career opportunities that allow staff to have a real impact on raising aspirations for students, outside of teaching roles.
Whether it is providing extra support for young people through being a teaching assistant (TA) or helping to ensure a school’s administrative functions are running effectively, these roles are often overlooked when discussing recruitment in the sector, despite being vital to the success of a school.
Promoting different pathways, such as apprenticeships, is a great way for schools to recruit people with diverse skillsets, prior experience, and new knowledge into the education sector. We know that through having staff from a wide variety of backgrounds, schools can introduce new ideas, ensure they are delivering the best possible education, and deliver opportunities for all students. Apprenticeships can help achieve this ambition by opening the door to new audiences and a range of skills.
Offering apprenticeships as a pathway into education can help to ease recruitment strains, while providing new staff with the opportunity to gain the skills and experience required to hit the ground running upon completing their training. In providing opportunities for apprentices to get the most out of their time at a school, they should be encouraged to take any opportunity to experience other roles and specialisms related to their course. For example, TAs can be offered experience in working with subject specialists or shadowing staff members who have specialised in providing SEND support.
One of 263 apprentices across OAT, Paige Manship is studying a Level 3 business administration apprenticeship at Ormiston Maritime Academy. She had been passionate about working with young people and wanting to play a role in supporting their personal and educational development. Without a career path that provided her on-the-ground experience and financial stability as she learnt, it is unlikely she would have ended up in this role. Paige now has the intention to continue developing her skillset in a number of other areas such as finance, attendance and first aid – with the ambition of progressing to a management role.
We have also seen a huge benefit in offering apprenticeships as a way for our staff to upskill. Instead of risking losing great talent, we enable them to retrain in an area where they can continue to have an immeasurable impact on our students.
While progression routes for teachers are clearer, for other roles within schools there can be less of a defined path. This can deter prospective staff from applying, and be isolating for current employees who are unsure about their roles’ ability to grow.
In recognition of these important roles, schools should explore providing a wide range of development opportunities to ensure apprentices are well embedded in their school. As with teachers, leaders should prioritise creating an environment where all support staff feel the same responsibility and pride in wanting their school to thrive.
Within OAT, we ensure apprentices get the most out of their career with us. While we have found that offering CPD courses for all of our staff has been successful, offering further opportunities to take part in or lead on projects helps to further develop skillsets. For example, our apprentices are encouraged to get involved in trust-wide initiatives, such as our #WeWill social action projects, which enable staff to help students make a difference to their community.
While it is important to use this week to recognise the positive impact that investing in apprenticeships can have on schools, there should be a year-round celebration of the benefit of creating diverse pathways into the sector. Through apprenticeships, we are able to showcase the wide range of rewarding careers available within education that really enable people to make a difference to the lives of students, outside of teaching.