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Exploring models for flexible apprenticeships

This research investigates the feasibility of part-time and flexible apprenticeship models. It suggests that flexible working will help businesses to reach a more diverse candidate pool, and begin to break down gender stereotypes for types of apprenticeships that are traditionally male dominated.

Apprenticeship, civil engineers
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An ambitious government programme is underway to raise the quality and quantity of apprenticeships, funded in part by the new Apprenticeship Levy. It has catapulted apprenticeships to the top of the agenda for many businesses. The benefits to apprentices, to businesses and to our wider economy and society are considerable.

However, access to high quality apprenticeships is uneven. Gender segregation is entrenched, mirroring the inequalities in the labour market that see women over-represented in low paid, low skilled jobs.

Timewise holds that one root cause of this gender inequality is the lack of part-time or flexible apprenticeships. Just one in ten apprentices are contracted for less than 30 hours per week, leaving the training out of reach for many who are unable to work full-time – particularly women, people with caring responsibilities, disabled people and young people leaving the care system.

Research objective

This report investigates the feasibility of part-time and flexible models of apprenticeships. It is based on research conducted by Learning and Work Institute and Timewise, supported by the Young Women’s Trust and Trust for London.

Key findings

The research suggests that part-time and flexible apprenticeships can increase access to skills and allow businesses to reach a broader, more diverse candidate pool. An effective programme would include the following critical success factors:

  • Working with employers to understand their workforce needs and where part-time and flexible apprenticeships may be beneficial.
  • Resolving misunderstandings around demand and supply of part-time and flexible apprenticeships. Currently, apprenticeship providers do not perceive a demand from employers, and employers do not think providers offer them.
  • Focusing initially on sectors and occupations where some degree of part-time or flexible working is already established, in order to establish a model for success.
  • Engaging the managers who oversee the apprentices in decisions about how work and study can be organised, with the terms of hours and flexibility agreed upfront.
  • Ensuring the level of apprenticeships offered are appropriate for the individual, of a high quality, and offer real progression opportunities and wage returns.
  • Ensuring that apprentices taking up part-time and flexible opportunities are paid at least the Living Wage or London Living Wage.
  • Improving use of online and distance learning approaches to facilitate part-time and flexible apprenticeship models, while retaining the benefits of face-to-face and peer group learning.

What next?

Timewise are now developing a part-time and flexible apprenticeship model which we intend to pilot later this year. Our goal is to build an evidence base to support a scalable part-time and flexible apprenticeship offer.


Published February 2018

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