It’s National Apprenticeship Week! I was delighted this week to welcome GlosCol’s Andy Bates to Parliament to thank him for the work he does to create opportunities for young people in Cheltenham.
I am passionate about apprenticeships. They allow young people, and indeed the not-so-young, to learn as they earn, offering a pathway to vital qualifications. That in turn means that, whatever their start in life, Cheltonians have an opportunity to go as far as their talents will take them.
Apprentices spend at least 20% of their working hours completing classroom-based learning which leads to a nationally recognised qualification. It includes paid employment with holiday leave, hands-on experience and formal assessment. For degree level apprenticeships that means a degree from a prestigious university that is identical to that secured via the wholly academic route.
Following a remarkable transformation over recent years, apprenticeships are now available in nearly 70% of occupations in the UK. They include law, accountancy, nursing and engineering. The corresponding figure for Germany, a leader in vocational education, is under 40%.
I have met many Cheltenham apprentices including those from GE Aviation, Safran and Spirax Sarco. They have always been hugely impressive as well as enthusiastic about their opportunity to get their feet under the table with a prestigious employer.
So it’s exciting that opportunities for Cheltenham apprentices are expanding. I am delighted that GlosCol was recently awarded £4m in Government funding to build a construction skills centre at its Cheltenham campus to support apprentices to develop the skills they need for a rewarding career in construction.
This cash has come in addition to the £3m Government-funded Advanced Digital Academy which opened in 2021 and provides cyber apprentices with the first-ever GCHQ/NCSC-accredited cyber skills course. That is now drawing in apprentices from across the country.
With £12m of Government investment in recent years, GlosCol is helping to provide a better future for so many people – including those who may not have had the easiest start in life, but are prepared to work hard to fulfil their potential.
So whether they’re a dab hand on the construction site or a genius in cyber-space, the future for Cheltenham’s apprentices is bright.
[Column published in the Glos Echo and Cheltenham Post]