12 March 2019
This year’s YMCA National Apprenticeship Awards were held at the House of Commons on Monday 4th March as part of National Apprenticeship Week (4th - 8th March), in partnership with CognAssist – an organisation which supports learners with additional needs.
The event was addressed by the Rt Hon Robert Halfon - Chair of the Education Select Committee and was attended by approximately 60 guests including MPs, policymakers and employers from a range of sectors.
Special guest speaker, Robert Halfon, aired his frustration with the apathy towards apprenticeships in British society. Before he was elected in 2010, he was determined to change the status quo if he came to power. Since his election, Robert has created six consecutive apprenticeships in his office at the Houses of Parliament and continues to be an advocate for apprenticeships and the work of the YMCA:
Changing lives and plugging the skills gap
“My passion is to turn Britain into an apprenticeship and skills nation. In Germany, 70% of students have a vocational education and in Switzerland, it’s 50%. In Austria, every single young person is guaranteed an apprenticeship – that would be my dream here. We face two problems here – we need to transform the culture and prestige of apprenticeships and we need to show people from disadvantaged backgrounds that it’s an incredible ladder of opportunity to climb up and get the skills, education and training they need. At the top of the ladder is job security and prosperity.
Learners can start at level 2 and go right up to degree level, which help to build the prestige of apprenticeships. Apprentices earn while they learn. There’s no student debt and they’re virtually guaranteed a very high skilled job at the end of it. Not only do apprenticeships meet our skills deficit, but they actually help those from disadvantaged backgrounds and change their lives. That is why I love and support the YMCA.”
Believing in young people
Central YMCA Chief Executive, Rosi Prescott, reminded the audience of how YMCA Founder, George Williams, started out as a draper’s apprentice before establishing the YMCA in 1844. For the past 40 years, the YMCA has partnered with a range of businesses to create apprenticeships so learners can get experience, learn and earn at the same time. Rosi pointed out the importance of progression and thanked employers for their support:
“We’re very keen to support and lead our young people from any walk of life from levels 2 and 3 towards the higher end, degree level of apprenticeships. Degree apprenticeships are something that we are just now getting to grips with. We believe that we shouldn’t cap a young person’s aspiration and that they can reach for the stars, even if it’s not in a traditional format. No matter how disadvantaged or challenged they’ve been, these young people have succeeded - often against the odds - and have achieved remarkable things with us.
We also want to thank the employers from the bottom of our hearts for the support and belief that you demonstrate to these young people, so they can flower and flourish in the way that they do.”
Last year, Central YMCA supported nearly 1,300 apprentices and over 700 Study Programme learners. 60% of these learners progressed into further education or employment.