Greater Cambridge Apprenticeships scheme offers guidance for students and school
Alistair Easterfield, assistant headteacher at Cambridge Academy for Science and Technology, explains why the new GCP Apprenticeship Service will provide much-needed guidance.
Science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects are at the heart of the government’s industrial strategy.
They are vital because technology is the fastest-growing sector of the UK’s economy, of which Cambridge is the beating heart.
Over the last couple of decades, UK education has been focused on students achieving good exam results, but what is the point of this? I don’t disagree that students need good exam results – they open doors to future opportunities. However, students also need to know how to access those opportunities and to choose the right courses to do so. This is where good careers guidance is essential.
In 2014, Sir John Holman published an influential report that identified what schools should be doing to prepare students for work. Five years on, the number of schools achieving this is woefully low. This is especially so for apprenticeships where the structure, quality and opportunities have changed massively in the last few years, particularly in STEM areas. This has resulted in many students, parents and some schools being largely unaware of the openings that are available. The extra support and guidance that Greater Cambridge Apprenticeships will provide is well overdue and gratefully received.
Cambridge Academy for Science and Technology (CAST) was established in 2014 on the Cambridge Biomedical Campus specifically to train students for the local STEM businesses. At CAST we believe in fostering an excitement and life-long interest in STEM subjects in all our students through an innovative curriculum based upon preparing students for careers in STEM. This is achieved through a three-part model involving a STEM-rich curriculum, our Challenge programme with industry partners, and the third strand, our wider curriculum.
Students understand how their work fits into the wider context of life in the UK, and indeed wider world today. The preparation for the world of work has been described by Ofsted as exceptional, with almost all of our sixth-form students going on to either higher education, apprenticeships or work in STEM. From the moment students start at CAST we start thinking together about their future career.
We promote active engagement with employers, whether through our Challenge projects (extended projects designed and delivered in conjunction with specialist external partners, the aim of which is to prepare students for STEM-based careers), or through careers activities that we organise ourselves and with Form the Future, or work experience placements.
This helps students learn about all the great career opportunities available to them and to choose what’s right for them.
We prepare students equally for courses at university and apprenticeships and have many students that have gone on to start very successful apprenticeship programmes.
Indeed, it is not unusual for employers to inform us that CAST students are the best apprentices that they have had because of their practical experience.
Signing the Pledge on Apprenticeships is common sense to us, it is what we already do. The extra support is really welcome because securing an apprenticeship can be a challenge.
I hope this new service encourages more schools to highlight apprenticeship opportunities to students, remove the stigma that somehow apprenticeships are inferior to university, and help those who are ready and eager to make a start on their careers to find and secure an apprenticeship that’s right for them.
Find out more at gcapps.co.uk.
GCP Apprenticeships has college backing
The Greater Cambridge Partnership Apprenticeship Service is supported by Form the Future and Cambridge Regional College.
Mark Robertson, principal and CEO of the college, said: “We’re delighted to be part of the initiative for which we will be both a delivery partner and training establishment. The college plays a vital role in ensuring our students learn skills that employers want.
“Apprenticeships are a wonderful opportunity for students who do not wish to go to university but want to secure a skilled and rewarding job. It’s also very satisfying to be playing a key part in helping boost the region’s growth”.