West Midlands employers failing to value off-the-job training for apprentices, new research says

New research has revealed that West Midlands employers may be stifling the progress of their apprentices by not acknowledging the importance of off-the-job training, leading to a lack of well-rounded development and poor results for businesses.

Studies conducted by Professor Rob Smith and Dr Vanessa Cui of Birmingham City University, explored how the region’s training providers deliver off-the-job as part of a high quality programme of apprenticeships.

Off-the-job training refers to the time apprentices spend studying theory to underpin their workplace experience, and was traditionally delivered in the form of a ‘day-release’.

The research spanned 18 different organisations and evidence was gathered through interviews with employers, apprentices, organisational leaders, training curriculum managers, teachers and other staff with significant roles connected to the practice.

The findings .showed that the West Midlands’ most effective apprenticeship programmes were those which gave apprentices time to learn off-the-job and away from the workplace to develop important skills like communication, teamwork and decision making, and mix with apprentices from other firms.

Businesses that worked alongside training providers to ensure a complementary approach to apprenticeships were shown to be those who yielded the best results for students, but also enriched the knowledge-base of their workplace.

However the report also revealed that some employers were failing to recognise the important and distinct role of off-the-job training, instead opting to squeeze ad-hoc drop-in sessions or training into the workplace and often didn’t meet the minimum requirement of 20 per cent time split.

Organisations which didn’t provide specific time and dedicated space for off-the-job training were failing to acknowledge the long term benefits of apprentices learning and acquiring broader skills than those related to the immediate job role.

The report calls for greater collaboration between employers and training providers to ensure apprentices get a full and well-rounded experience. It stresses the importance of considering the apprentices’ interests alongside those of the employer.

Rob Smith, Professor of Education at Birmingham City University, said: “Our research took in those involved in the provision of off-the-job training right across the region and showed the different experiences and outcomes for organisations and apprentices.

“The results show just how big a difference a coherent and integrated approach to off-the-job training can be, not just for apprentices but for the workplaces themselves.

“If the region is to fully maximise the benefits of apprenticeships we need to ensure this greater collaboration and not lose sight of the needs and interests of the apprentices themselves.”

The report was produced as part of a key document published by the Gatbsy Charitable Foundation outlining key recommendations for how UK apprenticeships should be enhanced to deliver the best outputs for apprentices and bolster the country’s future workforce.

The study focussed on the sectors of nursery nursing and advanced manufacturing to produce various case studies.

The findings of the report are being shared as part of National Apprenticeship Week (8 – 14 February) which aims to celebrate the importance of apprenticeships.

The Gastby Foundation’s full report which also shares findings from the University of Southampton on the role of on-the-job training can be read here.