National Apprenticeship Week – raising the standard

It’s National Apprenticeship Week and UNISON is celebrating the good, while protecting against the bad and the ugly side of apprenticeships

Apprenticeships can be a wonderful route into employment and provide the opportunity for people to earn while they learn.

And with the new government policy designed to encourage apprenticeships, there should be a lot more of them in the next few years.

UNISON champions and protects thousands of public service apprentices and has been vocal about our concern that the government’s rushed approach could create a ‘wild west’ atmosphere and leave young workers vulnerable to unscrupulous employers.

However, the union has also been clear that it supports high-quality apprenticeships and actively endorses employers that sign up to its Apprenticeship Charter standards.

So, with the spotlight on apprentices during National Apprenticeship Week (5-9 March) , it’s a good time to talk to some apprentices and find out what UNISON is doing to support them.


The Apprenticeship Network

At the Borough of Poole council, an innovative network is providing support and training for apprentices. And with a joint approach from UNISON and the employer HR team, it is now being run by apprentices, for apprentices.

Peter Stratford (pictured top with apprentices Nick Hillman and Freya Kendall) was a union learning rep and the young members’ officer at Poole. At a UNISON learning conference, he tells a packed audience that he started as an apprenticeship sceptic: “It made me think of poor Bert White, the exploited apprentice in The Ragged Trousered Philanthropist.”

But he also recognised that union involvement could ensure apprenticeships are the positive introduction to the working world they should be.

Peter felt it would be good to provide the apprentices at Poole with a social learning network. Together with the HR team, and support from the Union Learning Fund, they invited 30 apprentices for a training session and lunch.

“But then it was over to them. We always envisaged it being a network run by apprentices for apprentices – so it’s really Freya and Nick that have made it what it is.” 


Freya and Nick’s story

UNISON (National News Release) – Tel: 0845 355 0845