Zuzanna Wnekowska, an apprentice panel member, reflects on their recent survey of apprentices and important work now being done on best-practice guidance for everyone involved with the training programmes.
My name is Zuzanna and I work as a wing design apprentice at Airbus, having just completed my aerospace engineering degree this summer. During the course of my apprenticeship, I have also completed level 2 and level 4 NVQs in engineering and advanced manufacturing.
My goal is to help make apprenticeships in this country the best in the world.
I have a passion for strengthening the voice of apprentices with government, employers and training providers – so pointing out what is and isn’t working and where we need to see change.
This developed from my time working with the National Society of Apprentices, part of the National Union of Students, since 2016. I have also sat on the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education’s (the Institute) panel of apprentices, which speaks up for apprentices to policymakers, since 2018.
Apprenticeships are a great way for people of all ages to break into an industry they have set their heart on working in, while also gaining qualifications. But we need to make sure they work well for all learners. The only way to do that is to include the apprentice voice in all decisions to do with us.
A massive 87% of apprentices who took part in the recent survey, run by the panel with the Institute, said they would recommend their apprenticeship to others who wish to train in that occupation. Such high regard from learners is a great success story. It makes the point that apprenticeships are not only working for employers in this employer-led system.
Our report on the survey results has also highlighted some issues, such as more than a third of respondents did not receive the 20% off-the-job training they are entitled to. The panel would like to see more done to stop any employers taking advantage of the system through employing people on apprentice wages without delivering the education that is being funded.
Personally, I have experienced how hard it can be to juggle studies alongside your job and found it easiest to complete my studies on a day release because it ensured a learner-focused environment in college.
Another finding in the report is the significance of pastoral care by employers and training providers. This has become all the more important due to the distress caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. All apprentices should receive mental health support, just as any learner in a school or university would, with more work needed to be done in ensuring that especially younger apprentices and those with caring responsibilities have access.
I am proud and pleased to see the report bringing up so many key topics for discussion. The panel has also begun the creation of its very own best-practice guidance as support to apprentices, training providers and employers- so keep your eyes peeled.
Running the survey was a great opportunity to gather first-hand evidence from apprentices about what is working and what needs to be improved further. Apprentices can contact the panel to pass on more of their positive and negative experiences by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.