Company A manufactures bathroom showers and employs some 700 people. It has a well-established apprenticeship programme which has been used to develop successive generations of skilled and qualified engineers and technicians. Many of the company’s ex-apprentices have progressed to senior management positions.
Applicants for apprenticeship are required to have a minimum of four GCSEs at grades A* to C including Mathematics, English and Science. They also sit aptitude tests and undergo at least one formal interview. Successful applicants are given a contract of employment which specifies the rights and responsibilities of the employer and apprentice. Apprentices’ pay is increased annually as they gradually become productive members of the workforce. Throughout the programme, apprentices are considered by managers and other employees to have status both as employees and as learners.
The company currently employs apprentices in engineering, and one each in steel production and processing and in accountancy. The company training officer has responsibility for the apprentices, who can see him at any time to discuss their progress and any emerging issues. He is also responsible for managing the relationship between the company and the local FE college, which delivers the off-the-job provision. The completion of the programme takes three to four years and involves apprentices being seconded to a range of technical and commercial departments to complete their “workplace curriculum”. The aim is to produce employees who have a broad understanding of how the company is organised, as well as the technical knowledge and competence required of fully competent staff in the relevant ‘discipline’ and with a solid platform for career progression.
Apprentices attend college on a day-release basis. There they pursue knowledge-based vocational qualifications, such as the Ordinary National Certificate, a level 3 award that can also qualify them for entrance to higher education. In addition, a private training provider visits each apprentice every month to assess their progress towards attainment of the relevant NVQ. At the end of the programme apprentices have gained a wide range of experience and applied knowledge through their participation in the workplace training scheme, their attainment of an NVQ3 and the appropriate more general vocational qualification. Their personal and social development is also facilitated by participation in residential outward bound courses designed to develop organisational and team working skills. Moreover, through the company’s apprentice association, apprentices get involved in charity activities in the local community.