A Shout Out for the Childcare Apprentices during National Apprenticeship Week

March 10th 2015

This National Apprenticeship Week it is time to celebrate the joy and enthusiasm good apprentices bring into an organisation. I have been a supporter of trainees and apprentices for nearly ten years because in my view some of our best staff have been those who learned the job on the job. That said, a good apprentice is as good as the organisation which employs them. A programme that does not build in regular, relevant and robust training and mentoring is failing the apprentice. This is not a cheap option. Good apprentices need a great learning experience if they are to succeed.

We owe it to them to give them the best. Look what they face; Unemployment and in London particularly they cannot afford a flat to rent. What kind of a society creates a situation where our young cannot earn or be housed? In addition, there are over one million young people that are classified as NEET, approximately 13% of the 16-24 year old population. Shocking statistics.
Now focus on childcare apprenticeship. The Evening Standard has taken up the mantel for apprentices and good on them but I have yet to see them shout out for childcare apprentices. Why I wonder? Childcare is one of the infrastructure services in London. 76% of women with children work. That means they need childcare. To provide that we need to train staff and provide a high quality service to the children. Apprentices are a perfect solution. But here are a few challenges:
Anyone who want to become an apprentice in childcare needs an entry requirement of a GCSE A to C in English and Maths. This is when the national average for those with A –C in English and Maths is 56%. Well if schools cannot get pupils through the GCSE in the 11 years they have them, how am I expected to get them an A to C GCSE and a Diploma in Childcare in 2 years? We need to revisit the Functional Skills equivalence.

Last month we sifted through 400 CVs and after an assessment centre we selected only 9 apprentices. These all have either a D or C GCSE . We have learned painfully that we can increase a student’s English and Maths grade by no more than one point. Therefore for those 44% without their C, the door to future childcare apprentice is beginning to slam in their face. Don’t get me wrong I am not against quality and many of the LEYF apprentices will go on to do their degrees. Access is crucial however, especially for poor children who have already been failed by the Education system.

London is an expensive place to work and live. Those apprentices who are likely to get through will often live with their families as they cannot afford to rent. This limits those without this support which is heartbreaking as they are often the young people we want to support.

Travel in London is astronomical; the highest in Europe. We currently give them a 30% discount on their Oyster cards but that is not enough. London employers should be funded to better support travel costs of apprentices.
The preparation for training and becoming an apprentice is not to be underestimated. We fund a “Step into Learning” preparation programme as part of assessment but we are not funded for this yet it’s essential.

So, absolutely let’s celebrate National Apprentices Week. It’s a great idea and took a long time coming. At LEYF I am evangelical about apprentices. I am very proud of the journey so many take. Since we started the Apprenticeship Programme in 2009, 98 people have participated. Of those 98, 88 apprenticeships were started by women and 10 by men. 100% of our graduates have gone on to gain employment and 66% of those have been offered a role within LEYF. Working and training at LEYF is often the first place they have achieved any level of academic success. I am delighted to recruit young people with some potential, enthusiasm and commitment. But I also need a joined up Government where departments work together to ensure that many more young people join the programme.

I take a cohort of 25 twice a year. I have space for another 16 but finding an apprentice with an A – C is tricky. If you are interested and have a D or above grade in English and Maths contact ewen@leyf.org.uk. Look what some of apprentices say.

6o second interview with a new apprentice
Name Paige
Age when you started apprenticeship 20 years
Why did you want to be an apprentice? I wanted hands on experience while learning the theories. This suits me better.
Why Leyf? It’s a lovely supportive company that opens doors for everbody.
Biggest Challenge; getting my grade C in English, Maths and ICT
How have you managed on the low pay in London? It’s really hard. I am lucky to live at home as I could not afford to rent. I also struggle with the cost of travel in from zone 6. I get a discount from LEYF but the top up to outer zones is expensive.
What have you learned about yourself? I never thought I could help children develop and I have discovered that I can!
Would you recommend it to a friend? Yes 100%.

One step makes big ambitions”
– Yvette, Skye, Annie & Dareena

Don’t just think about it, do it! An apprenticeship is the way to go”
– Shirmme, Leanna, Francine, Anwar

If you feel that Childcare is a career for you… join LEYF!”
– Rabia, Nicole, Jessica and Magda

If you are Fun, Brave, Inspiring & Nurturing then join LEYF!”
– Rabia, Nicole, Jessica and Magda