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Exploring the world of apprenticeships with South Devon College

Emily Tucker, Head of Apprenticeships and Employer Engagement at South Devon College, considers the importance of apprenticeships in rebuilding the economy

In March, the Chancellor announced a £126 million investment in apprenticeships for the year ahead, tripling the number of opportunities available for young people.

To support this drive to develop the skills needed to reboot our economy as we begin to recover from the impact of Covid-19, the Government is calling for closer relationships between FE Colleges and industry.

This is something that South Devon College has always strived to create through its programme of employer engagement, working with over 1,000 local and regional employers to offer apprenticeships to help people earn whilst they learn and successfully develop new skills. 

This work has continued at pace through what has been an incredibly challenging few months, with employers recognising the importance of training in the recovery of their businesses and the wider economy.

We are proud to have retained 98% of our apprentices since the start of lockdown, providing support for employers and allowing the apprentices to focus on the study element of their apprenticeships, if they were temporarily restricted from performing their working duties.

This year, the team at the college have worked closely with a wide range of businesses, supporting employers through apprenticeship programmes in the toughest conditions imaginable, from the well-established hospitality sector to the exciting field of composites engineering.

Hospitality: Supporting the recovery of our most well-established sector

The hospitality industry has been hit hard but training and development is key to its recovery.

Over the past two years, the college has worked particularly closely with international hotel brands Hilton Hotels and Accor to develop staff for new hotels under development in Torbay, as well as local employers including The Grand hotel, on the development of its hospitality apprenticeship programmes.

Rebecca Davies, Senior Economic Development Officer at the Torbay Development Agency, commented: “Torbay is seeing huge investments from international hotels, as well as independent local businesses; it’s a very exciting time.

“There’s government funding available, as well as financial incentives for apprenticeships, allowing employers to invest in and develop their teams to ensure their businesses are able to bounce back from the impact of the last 12 months, making the most of the huge demand from locals and visitors as restrictions are lifted.”

Jody Green, who is studying a Higher Apprenticeship in Hospitality Management at The Grand Hotel in Torquay, said: “When I was made redundant, I felt vulnerable and didn’t know which avenue to choose for my future.

“The Grand Hotel in Torquay approached me and asked if I would work for them. They offered me the opportunity to learn more about the management skills I wasn’t quite qualified in from my time in the aviation industry despite being a manager for all those years.

“The team at the college’s University Centre worked really closely with the Grand Hotel and they designed an education plan for me over two years. It was a level 4 higher apprenticeship in Hospitality Management and both the hotel and the college were really supportive. I was able to work the hours around my study and similarly the university centreenabled me to study when I wasn’t needed at work, so they worked together.

“The apprenticeship during the lockdown has been a Godsend. It’s given me lots to focus on and plenty of material to read through. I’ve enjoyed learning and I’m excited to come back to the hotel and put into practice everything I’ve learned in lockdown.”

Composites: Upskilling for emerging technologies

The South West is known to many for its areas of outstanding natural beauty and great places to work, live and visit; but it is also home to areas of deprivation and has seen industries significantly affected by Covid-19. 

Access to business support and high-quality education – both academic and vocational - is critical to enabling the area to ‘level up’ economically, and to drive post Covid recovery through creating innovation and talent to create start-ups, build on the capabilities of existing SMEs and create the future industries that will bring productivity and prosperity to the UK.   

South Devon College is working in partnership with the National Composites Centre to help businesses in the South West discover how composite materials could enhance their products and processes, as well as developing a new apprenticeship programme to support in the technical upskilling of employees in this exciting sector. 

The new Level 3 Composites Technician apprenticeship  will be attractive to people just starting their post-16 training journey through to people with decades of experience looking to upskill or reskill.

Princess Yachts rely heavily on apprenticeships for the continued development of their workforce, particularly to upskill new staff in new technologies. 

Reflecting on lockdown and the impact on the business’s apprentices, Alison Thompson, Head of Learning & Development at Princess Yachts, said:

“Last year had our largest intake of apprentices with 66 in total. During that time there was no break in learning for any of our apprentices. We worked very closely with South Devon College who ensured our apprentices were contacted on a regular basis. They took part in online learning and we had individual workshops for them.”

Increased Incentives ending in September

The Government’s drive to support skills-based learning is supported by a significant level of funding that employers should take advantage of.

The financial incentive for hiring an apprentice over 25 has been doubled, meaning you will receive £3,000 per apprentice if you hire them before the September deadline.

To further support young people in gaining apprenticeships, an additional £1,000 incentive is available to businesses that hire apprentices aged 16-18.

It’s a challenging time for businesses, young people, and those that want to upskill but the additional financial support will help significantly.

At South Devon College, we have a long history of success and continuous year on year growth in these programmes. With this, the College is a fantastic source of support for employers and apprentices. It is what we and our employer partners have been very successful in, and we look forward to providing more opportunity, support and growth in the South West.

If you are an employer and keen to learn more about how you can access these incredible opportunities, our Apprenticeship and Employer Engagement Team are here to help.

Visit southdevon.ac.uk/apprenticeships to find out more or get in touch by calling 08000 380 123 (Option 3) or emailing employers@southdevon.ac.uk.

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