Learning and professional development should not stop at the end of the apprenticeship. In fact, apprenticeships are the ideal training to set individuals and companies up for continuous development over many years and even decades.
We know that the economy over the next few years is going to be very different in a number of respects from the pre-pandemic world. This future economy, and apprenticeships, have got a huge part to play in helping us rebuild post-pandemic.
At Damar, we are already thinking differently about apprenticeships and how they are going to help rebuild the economy in the way that we need. We know some of the sectors where we’ve got skills shortages, areas like health and social care, and some areas of manufacturing. What we don’t know are those areas that are going to bring us out post-pandemic. These are industries that don’t yet exist. These are jobs that don’t yet exist. How are we using apprenticeships to get us ready for those?
Where businesses succeeded in 2020 and where individuals have succeeded, it’s not usually because of the huge amount of technical knowledge that they might have had about their particular business or area. It’s because of their skills and behaviours, things like resilience, communication skills, adaptability, the ability to manage one’s own physical health and mental wellbeing, and the ability to be confident that you can find a workaround to a problem.
These skills and behaviours and, really importantly, learning how to learn, are critical ingredients of future apprenticeships. Knowledge is becoming easier to acquire, and, in some cases, more short-lived and disposable, so we have to keep acquiring new knowledge as we go through our careers.
The work that paralegals, entry level accountants, and administrators do are going to be affected by artificial intelligence and the rise of new ways of working over the coming years. Previous industrial revolutions have shown that new jobs get created during periods of change, but they are different jobs.
So we’ve got to train our accountants, paralegals, and administrators of the future, not just with the knowledge that they need now, but with the skills to get new knowledge in the future.
At Damar, we’ve already implemented changes that will take us, with our apprentices and partner-employers, in this direction. Back in April 2020, we launched our Working Differently programme with the key themes of resilience and wellbeing, time management, communication and problem-solving for all apprentices with tailored content for each apprenticeship standard. We also added additional learning content on Damar OpenLearning such as how to manage remote teams for our management apprentices.
We introduced our group forums – where apprentices on the same qualification and at a similar point in their learner journey, can talk to each other, share ideas, get practice, ask questions and support each other. These virtual networks have proved to be an invaluable resource for our apprentices, many of whom have been working from home or in highly pressurised work environments such as the NHS. Just like individuals potentially experience in college and university settings, these forums allow apprentices to build up a network that they can continue to communicate with, and learn from after their apprenticeship.
We made changes to empower our apprentices to be more accountable for their learning. Employers provide a supportive environment, appropriate work and time for off-the-job study. Our coaches and specialist tutors ensure that the programme is designed and delivered appropriately. Coaches are supportive but also robust in holding apprentices accountable for achieving the learning goals they set for themselves. Apprentices who are accountable and feel empowered nearly always succeed. By taking ownership of their studies, managing their workload and seeking out learning opportunities, they are setting themselves up with the habits and skillset that will enable them to achieve their qualification, but also to progress, adapt, learn and thrive as the business world and job roles evolve.
And we continue to seek ways in which we can add value, and continue to develop, current and previous apprentices, their line managers and HR teams. This week we hosted a Workplace Wellbeing Webinar, which was attended by over 170 individuals across public and private organisations, giving practical advice and guidance on how to improve wellbeing in the workplace in all circumstances – for furloughed or remote workers, as well as for those who have had to take on additional responsibilities or line management duties.
We are currently working on a plan of future webinars to be hosted by Damar, which will be available to apprentices, both during and after their qualification, and their employers. These webinars will continue to focus on the key challenges and opportunities that people and businesses have, as we move forward into the future.
If you would like to be notified when future webinars become available for registration, please complete our contact form. And if there are any employers who would like to talk to us about the positive changes we’ve made to our training and delivery, in order to develop individuals who will continue to learn and progress throughout their careers, we’d love to hear from you.