Supporting transitions from ESOL to apprenticeships

15 November 2017

Last week’s Annual Conference on English, Maths and ESOL was a great opportunity to hear more about the good work that adult literacy, numeracy and ESOL practitioners do, and the benefits this can have for learners. It was especially interesting to hear feedback on how the importance of ensuring course content and teaching is relevant for everyday life and work, and concerns about the reduction of in-work ESOL learning opportunities. With this in mind, mine and Hazel Klenk’s workshop ‘Supporting transitions from ESOL to apprenticeships’ seemed a timely opportunity to explore how people with ESOL needs might be able to benefit from the opportunities apprenticeships offer to enter and progress in the workforce.

The Government’s apprenticeship reforms have meant that, for many employers, apprenticeships are increasingly important in how they train new staff and provide opportunities for existing staff to develop. However, minimum requirements for English and maths qualifications mean that in many cases these opportunities may not be accessible for people with ESOL needs. Language learning needs can present a barrier to achieving the Functional Skills English and Skills for Life ESOL qualifications are not currently recognised as an alternative.

At L&W we believe that anyone who wants to access an apprenticeship should be supported to do so, and our current work is exploring these language barriers further and how they may be overcome. The practitioners and employers at our workshop were keen to discuss the barriers they had faced in helping people with ESOL needs access apprenticeships, as well as adjustments they had made to support this. Three key points came through particularly clearly:

Qualifications need better aligning to allow appropriate alternatives: Practitioners felt that equivalent language qualifications should be accepted as an alternative to Functional Skills English.

Improved interdepartmental working within providers and communication with employers: For some, discussions did not take place on a regular basis between ESOL teams and apprenticeship teams within providers. Information sharing and collaboration were seen as important to better understand the opportunities available and work with employers to meet their needs.

More flexibility in the offer: A perceived barrier for people with ESOL needs (particularly women) was a view that apprenticeships were a full-time programme. It was felt increasing opportunities and raising awareness of part-time and flexible apprenticeship options would help better support the needs of this group.

The findings from the workshop will be taken and used alongside other research being conducted by our staff to inform the development of an effective practice guide for supporting people with ESOL needs into apprenticeships which we will share at future events. If you weren’t able to attend the workshop and want to share your experience complete our online call for evidence by Friday 01 December.