Comment: Apprenticeships can future-proof the sector

Travel can prepare for bounce-back through learning and development, says dnata Travel Europe head of people development Julia Assock

Another National Apprenticeship Week has been and gone, yet these invaluable tools for future proofing the workforce merit much more than seven days of media attention.

As an industry we in travel must be ready to operate, grow and innovate in a post-Covid environment.

I’m a passionate advocate of apprenticeships and the crucial role they can play in helping firms prepare for the ‘bounce back’ and tailoring learning and development to the changing demands of the sector.

At dnata, we have found the apprenticeship levy is a great way to upskill our existing workforce and boost retention.

Plus, apprenticeships encourage learners to step outside their comfort zones and connect with people and departments they may not engage with otherwise.

Apprenticeships are highly adaptable to the business environment, able to reflect in-demand skills, and allow people to gain industry recognised qualifications and boost their career prospects. We have seen a strong call for finance and IT-related apprenticeships, for example.

Take one employee who has used an apprenticeship route to transition from finance to a software developer role and, in doing so, receive a software developer qualification. Or another individual who is on their way to obtaining a Level 7 CIMA accountancy qualification, which is a degree equivalent.

Judging by the positive feedback from our apprentices, people seem to be embracing remote learning and training providers appear to have adapted well to the move to online.

To get best value from apprenticeships the employer needs to play their part.

One thing we have learnt is the importance of encouraging apprentices to take advantage of all support that’s on offer to them. Many training providers offer skills days and additional support days, and these can be very useful, especially with the shift to remote learning that may be new for many apprentices.

Additionally, we’ve found it’s really helpful for the line manager to stay close to the process, not only from a personal support point of view, but also so they can get a clear idea of what the apprentice is learning. By doing this, the line manager is more integral to the role enrichment process for the apprentice as their skills base grows.

Standards are paramount, of course, and underpin the value of the apprenticeship programme. As a member of the Travel Skills & Quality Board facilitated by People 1st International, which has met remotely throughout the pandemic, we’ve had some incredibly constructive conversations on how we can continue to support people currently on apprenticeships and ensure quality standards are maintained.

Plus, the move to 100% employer-led apprenticeships has also created an opportunity for employers to regularly get together in neutral territory and identify areas where there is a need for new apprenticeships. That might be both around the digital space and sustainability, for example. And I’m sure the lessons we learn from Covid will lead to new apprenticeships via trailblazers groups.

It is vital we all participate in that development process in order to best serve the interests of our sector, our people, and our customers.

This year, perhaps more than ever, apprenticeships can prove their relevance by helping businesses both retain staff and be ready for the post-Covid world of travel.

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