Since their launch, apprenticeships have only ever grown, year on year, and there’s no sign of that stopping at South Devon College, with 1600 apprentices and over 1000 employers supported by the College.
Being National Apprenticeship Week (NAW), there is great cause for celebration for how even in these uncertain and challenging times, apprentices across the country are playing a vital role in stimulating the economy and adding to the productivity of a wide range of businesses, and also helping save lives in various health and care settings. All in addition to gaining invaluable experience and qualifications that can set them up for a lifetime of success.
With that vital role apprenticeships have in our community considered, the theme for NAW is ‘Build the Future’ and South Devon College have a wide range of virtual events with that focus throughout the week for both apprentices and employers.
These events include school sessions to inspire the next generation, apprentice case studies that give insight on real student experiences, employer case studies highlighting the successes businesses have had working with the College on apprenticeships, and the Torbay Business Forum are hosting a special instalment for NAW of their Breakfast Byte series, in addition to continuous activity across the College’s social media channels.
Some of the College’s apprentices include Senior Healthcare Support Workers who are currently working under extreme pressure whilst also completing a demanding apprenticeship. They work in a variety of inpatient and outpatient departments, including ED, theatres and ICU. Demonstrating their strength, resilience and determination, they’re working full time as key workers whilst also remaining committed to their course. Cohort 3 not only completed their apprenticeship but did so with excellent results, 3 passes and 9 distinctions.
The College has also seen a great increase in the requirement of construction apprentices in line with the large-scale investment taking place in the local community and the developments that are taking place, such as the Fragrance Group’s hotel on Paignton Seafront.
But what do apprenticeships enable businesses to do? Employers working with South Devon College took some time to discuss how apprenticeships have benefited them.
Andrew Addison from Cavanna Homes said: “We’ve chosen to invest in apprenticeships as we’re a family business and one of the key parts of running a family business is bringing through the next generation of loyal employees.
“The key benefits of having apprenticeships within the company is really developing our own talent that understands our business. It benefits the wider local community supporting apprenticeships on our patch and keeps opportunities local. It’s fulfilling seeing young people succeed within the business and grow.”
Sam Fraser from Devon Doctors Ltd said: “Having apprentices at the Devon Doctors group has helped massively. It helps us think about succession planning for people of the future, it brings new ideas into the organisation, and it helps keep ideas fresh.
“Devon Doctors has been partnered with South Devon College over the years to provide really vital education support to our organisation. It’s been vital in providing higher level apprentices at managerial level, complementing our senior management team, but also within our HR department as we regularly use the College for our CIPD courses.”
Gary Brenton from Wollens said: “The role that apprentices play in our business; I can put into two areas. One is new roles and new positions within the firm. What we do when we take anyone on is, we think ‘could an apprentice do that role? Is it an opportunity to bring someone new into the business and develop them into our ways of doing things and train them too?’
“The other area is developing existing people within the firm. Looking at the people you have in your teams and seeing whether they and your business would benefit from developing and training them further.”
Brenton endorsed the College and its apprenticeship team saying they’ve “really supported us delivering apprenticeships here at Wollens. They have professional members of staff who take you through the whole process and the support is there for the employee. Two of our members of staff are going through exams at the moment and they are on hand to support every step of the way for them.”
As mentioned by Fraser, apprenticeships are in place for higher education and degree level study too. South Devon College’s University Centre, UCSD, provides a range of higher and degree apprenticeships that will see students graduate with a degree whilst also working in their roles.
Despite the restrictions Covid-19 has put on many aspects of our lives, apprenticeships have maintained excellent growth and this is set to continue. Apprenticeships will play a vital role locally in the recovery of our local economy, addressing skills gaps and helping businesses to increase productivity.