by Malcolm Hindle, National Operations Manager, EEF's Technology Training Centre
One of the discoveries of the EEF Skills Report 2016 was that manufacturers feel that apprentice “training provision remains ‘patchy’ at best”, with many employers relying on variable quality of training from local providers.
As National Operations Manager for the EEF Technology Training Centre I work hard to make sure our programmes provide consistent training – irrespective of whether the apprentices are learning at our site in Aston or through one of our locally based partners. For employers it can be tough to know what details would indicate a provider can deliver a consistent level of training and support so I’ve put together a round-up of some of the key questions you should be asking potential training providers.
Questions to ask an apprentice training provider
1. What skills will my apprentice gain and what machines will they work on?
The types of skills and qualifications achieved through training vary widely depending on the training provider you consider. Is a Btec or NVQ qualification important (as it is for apprentice employer Neu-Servo)? Or, if you’re looking for Higher and Degree Apprenticeships you should make sure the specifics of your requirements are offered by your chosen provider. Where you’re looking at apprentices being trained by multiple providers, or across multiple centres make sure they are offered consistently.
In terms of the machines they’re being trained on this is really important as you’ll need your apprentices to be able to apply their newly learned skills on your machines - so you’ll need to make sure they’re compatible. A quality provider, like us, should be able to discuss the compatibility of their machines and have considered things like ensuring there is enough equipment. We make sure there are enough machines for every apprentice to use their own individual machine for training (with no wait times or sharing machines).
“We make sure there are enough machines for every apprentice to use their own individual machine for training with no wait times or sharing machines.”
2. How will you support my apprentice to achieve their potential and how can I keep track of their progress?
While some colleges and training providers have an electronic monitoring system housing all learner details, courses taken and grades achieved, most do not make this available to the employer so it can vary if you’re using multiple providers – so check what each offer. Where you’re working with a National provider like, EEF, this should be more straight forward, we provide each employer with their own log-in to our online performance tracking so they can see how their apprentices are doing in their training each week (e.g. what they’re learning about that week, how they performed on specific learning ‘sections’, what tests they have taken, what certificates they have achieved). But not all do – so, again, check to see what support you are getting from them.
“For the first couple of years, our apprentice programme ran with each of our 19 factories working with a local college to deliver the apprenticeship. However, we realised that we needed to work with a national training provider to ensure all our apprentices received the same standard of training and essential practical skills.” – Paula Wardle, Ibstock-Brick
3. What is your Ofsted grade?
Ofsted is the accepted standard for apprenticeship training, with a rigorous evaluation process, including a week-long site visit. Essentially, a rating of 1 or 2 is excellent/good, 3 is acceptable and a 4 (or no rating for the most recent year) should not be acceptable in a training provider. Where you are working with multiple providers in different geographical areas this can be a real key to establishing their credentials and ensuring consistency.
EEF has achieved Ofsted rating of 2 year after year.
EEF have been delivering apprenticeship programmes for over 30 years, from its base in the West Midlands. We offer apprenticeship training at our centre for those based in the West Midlands, those outside of the West Midlands through a well-established residential programme and work with local training providers or colleges in other areas to deliver the off-the-job training.
Over the last 2 years EEF have invested £11million in its apprenticeships offering with a new centre, the ‘Technology Hub’ opening September 2016. The new site doubles the capacity for new apprenticeship starts to 500 per annum and trains all types of engineering and manufacturing apprentices, including delivering Higher and Degree Apprenticeships.