The Trailblazer Apprenticeship – Is this the magic bullet that will cure the skills deficit?

Fletcher, Roland (2016). The Trailblazer Apprenticeship – Is this the magic bullet that will cure the skills deficit? In: International Legal Ethics Conference VII, Fordham University, New York, 14-16 Jul 2016, New York.


The relationship between higher education and employability is recognised but not always understood. There is a constant debate on how students acquire the right types of skills which will address the criticism levelled at the way graduate employability is measured. The UK government has introduced a policy which is attempting to address the shortage of skills in the UK through the degree apprenticeship. This has had a direct impact on the reshaping of the curricula in many higher educational institutions. The introduction of the apprenticeship degree is challenging the way higher educational institutions design and deliver educational provision through work-based learning. The introduction of this policy has been controversial as it has encapsulated many professional pathways, such as law, medicine and aerospace engineering. This now requires higher educational institutions to accommodate these professional degree pathways, whilst having little say in how they have been initially constructed. These professional apprenticeships have been overseen by the Institute of Apprenticeships, who work with various employer groups and professional bodies referred to as the trailblazers. They produce the standards needed for a range of professions. The use of work-based learning through the apprenticeship, as a model of learning, has traditionally been used in various countries in order to formalise a progressions of tasks that develop levels of competencies, skills and knowledge. The apprenticeship degree which is now linked with traditional pathways, such as qualifying as a lawyer has forced many higher educational institutions to overhaul their curricula and accommodate this pathway to qualify. In effect this this means that many UK higher educational institutions will need to collaborate with a range of stakeholders, such as employers and professional bodies who design the standards expected from degree apprenticeship pathways. This is a formula which will induce fundamental changes in the way higher educational provision is designed and delivered in the near future.

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