Today we stand at a crucial moment in time.
The pernicious threat of COVID-19 and its impact on our local communities and the North East’s economy has hit us hard. Yet, I genuinely believe that there is hope.
Our region has an indomitable spirit. Our employers will fight back; our young people will not let the virus disrupt their careers.
Government has made it clear that high-quality apprenticeships and traineeships can provide the skills to act as a catalyst to reviving economic growth and I have been impressed to hear from employers across the region who are keeping their apprentices engaged with imaginative training sessions online - including the vital off-the-job training elements.
The digital ‘experience’ means young people can still acquire the knowledge and skills businesses want; and even take their End Point Assessments virtually.
I am the Chair of the North East Apprenticeship Ambassador Network - a collection of local employers who are passionate advocates for technical education. We act as champions – promoting the benefits of apprenticeships to other businesses; as well as encouraging young people to connect with apprenticeships in greater numbers.
Government has been consulting with stakeholders widely on how businesses can start to ignite the economy again. Along with other ambassadors, I have been asked to contribute my thinking to proposals that can help employers remain committed to apprenticeships; as well as my thoughts on how to help apprentices who are at threat of redundancy. We will await to see how these proposals convert to policies and then reach the public domain.
The next steps will be, that as employers, we act quickly, and get behind any new initiatives. The stakes could not be any higher – we need dynamic and vibrant businesses in our region across all sectors; and we need to shout the message out loudly that we do not want to leave any apprentices behind.
But remember...we are not shining the spotlight on apprenticeships as a piece of corporate responsibility but because it makes strong commercial sense.
The latest guidance on the apprenticeship response to COVID-19 is here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-apprenticeship-programme-response