Building tomorrow’s apprenticeships

From BIS Blog
Doug Richard

June 11, 2012

by Doug Richard

Doug Richard is a successful entrepreneur with over 20 years’ experience in the development and leadership of technology and software ventures. He featured in the first two TV series of Dragons’ Den and is an active angel investor and the founder of School for Startups. Between 1996 and 2000 Doug was President and CEO of Micrografx, a US publicly quoted software company. Prior to that he also founded and subsequently sold two other companies: Visual Software and ITAL Computers. In 2006 Doug was the first American to receive The Queen’s Award for Enterprise Promotion and in 2007 he became a fellow of the RSA. In 2010 Doug was awarded Enterprise Educator of the Year.

What’s the best way to train people? This is a question I have returned to throughout my whole life – the majority of which I have spent either starting or running businesses.

It is a question that has become all the more pertinent since I started my social enterprise, School for Startups, in 2008. Through it I meet fledgling businesses that are trying to get off the ground, hungry for any advice that will help them.

The transfer of knowledge has become my daily preoccupation. But it’s a challenge that all businesses face: how do you take someone who’s good at something and transfer that knowledge to a group of people who lack experience?

Well, I am a firm believer in on-the-job training. The greatest businesses are grown by taking people who are senior and people who are junior, welding them together and transferring knowledge. If you want to grow your firm quickly, you will soon become a firm believer in apprenticeships.

Given my strong conviction that apprenticeships hold the key to unlocking real business growth, I was therefore pleased to be asked to lead a review into their future.

To be clear, my job is not simply to criticise the current system. It is to explore what we can do with apprenticeships in the broadest sense and to determine how we can create the next generation of employable people, with the best possible chance to succeed in the workplace.

What we need to realise is that the vast majority of jobs that people will have 20 years from now don’t even exist today. The economy is changing at a dizzying pace and it is essential that we find more efficient ways for people to get skilled – or re-skilled – quickly.

It is a challenge that every country in the world faces. But by the same token, it is an excellent opportunity that is waiting to be grasped. If we use all the tools we have to rise to the challenge, we can make Britain a truly competitive economic force. Apprenticeships are not just one of these tools – they are one of the best.

But this review is also a chance to show that workplace learning is not only good for our economy in an abstract sense – or simply a method to be restricted to a few key sectors.

I am optimistic that apprenticeships can serve a much broader function than we currently imagine, and that they offer a great deal of personal value. Not only do they give people a ladder into employment – though that is one of their greatest strengths – but they also help a lot of people stay relevant in a world that is evolving rapidly.

As part of my task, I will be consulting those involved in apprenticeships at all levels and in all sectors. I will also be looking beyond our borders, examining international best practice and finding scalable solutions.

In this way, I hope to paint a positive picture of the role apprenticeships can play and give them the credit they deserve.

Paul Champion

📱: 07540 704920

Twitter: @blogapprentice
Skype: paulchampion31

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