The aim of the Scheme was to completely turn around ten lives, allowing ten young people from Lambeth who had faced many challenges to become skilled, employable and, ultimately, financially independent.
The Walcot Apprenticeship Scheme provided a comprehensive package of support over three years delivered with Knights Youth Centre. The Foundation paid apprentices’ salaries and any additional expenses such as travelling, equipment, training and childcare. The programme delivered a holistic programme of support including: a two day residential, an intensive 16 week programme of personal learning and development, advice with debt, group literacy support, help with job search, training in cognitive behavioural therapy and one-to-one coaching. This breadth and depth of support is rare.
There is clear evidence of benefit to the apprentices. Seven of the nine apprentices we interviewed did not know what work they wanted to do when they joined the Scheme and all now have an intended direction. All described to us strong motivation to work although this is not always translated into attendance and punctuality. All but one (who was already well motivated) said they were more motivated to find a job than when they joined. Eight of the nine said the Scheme has taught them how to find information on jobs that would suit them. All except one respondent (who is leaving the Scheme) said that it had made their lives better, generally much better. All respondents said that they are now confident about finding or keeping a job.
“The Walcot has really changed my life. Even when I dropped off, they were still trying to get me back on. I found my senses and I needed to get back here. They didn’t have to take me back.” Walcot Apprentice
“For the first time I enjoy work. It makes me feel good about myself because I have found the right place to work.” Walcot Apprentice
“When I am at work I feel that is where I am supposed to be. I don’t want to be at home doing nothing. Working is enjoyable. You are building for your future.” Walcot Apprentice
“The Scheme has given me the patience. Before if I didn’t find a job in a couple of days, I would feel I would never find one. I would give up.” Walcot Apprentice
“The opportunity I was given on the Scheme was the perfect opportunity. I messed it up for a bit, but I have turned it around.” Walcot Apprentice
- The lessons for other apprenticeship schemes are:
- Intended outcomes, including intermediate outcomes, should be specified from the beginning. Support should be related to the intended intermediate outcomes.
- Targets should be balanced and should include intermediate indicators such as increases in confidence, job search skills and motivation, as well as outputs such as qualifications gained and indicators of employment and training.
- Schemes should compile regular and accurate monitoring data on apprentices. This should include a systematic way of recording the courses attended by apprentices and validating the qualifications gained.
- The recruitment process should look at potential as well as need. The cohort should include a mix of abilities, since this gives role models and peer leaders.
- The recruitment process should manage expectations. It is important that trainees understand the work that they will have to put in to be successful.
- The structure should make progress manifest. For example it could be based on the different stages of finding long term employment. All diagnostic work should be carried out in the first year.
- The programme should manage motivation and aspiration. Motivational effects include: peer pressure, role models, inspirational speakers, involvement in arts projects, helping others, certificates, celebrations, competitions and financial incentives.
- There should be clear policies around discipline established from the beginning. This should include strict rules about treating delivery and partner staff with respect.
- The programme should be designed with a clear understanding of the local economic structure and the sectors most likely to have skill gaps relevant to apprentices.
- The scheme should be accommodated with a partner or venue that has a visibly professional style and culture.
- Scheme staff should ensure that they establish a professional relationship with apprentices so that apprentices do not rebel against guidance as if against a substitute parent.
- Employers should be chosen to ensure that they can provide the right support to apprenticeship. This will follow naturally if the scheme has a sector approach.
- The relationship with employers should be formalised so as to increase sustainability.