This is Lewis Simms on the left of the photo, a finance apprentice within the organisation that I work in. This was an image of Ann (his line manager) and I presenting Lewis with a certificate for his achievement on completing a Careers and Experiencing Work Short Course gained during his apprenticeship. I had the opportunity to be his tutor through this accreditation. The opportunity for us to work together has been hugely valuable to us both. I will try and explain why…
Firstly; I am so pleased that Lewis has given me permission to write this blog about his experience as an apprentice so far. The reason that I am writing about Lewis’s story is that a very big part of education that he is entitled to has been totally missed out. What was that part? Some of the important skills he required to be an effective employee in the workplace. Lewis wanted this to be written to highlight the need for skills based learning in education.
Lewis joined the organisation after gaining 11 GCSE A*-C grades and 3 A Levels including a Maths grade C. At A Level gaining a Maths grade C is not an easy task! He made the decision not to go to University and so he joined us with all the credentials to be an effective Finance Apprentice.
Employers have said for a long time now that young people entering the workplace do not have the soft skills to be an effective employee, usually only finding this out after interview. Unfortunately Lewis also found this to be the case.
Lewis joined as a very confident individual who could create great relationships with all around him. He could sell himself well (he got the job after all) and is one of the nicest and most giving people you could hope to meet. It was very early on in his employment that there were some issues however. He struggled with managing a workload, making regular and similar mistakes in his administration and struggled to work independently without considerable direction. Lewis soon lost confidence. It was at this point that I was asked to help out and mentor Lewis, build his confidence and help him develop his skills for the workplace. It was decided that a short course based on developing skills for the workplace could be used as a programme for his new learning.
After meeting a couple of times with Lewis it became obvious what the problem was. Lewis identified it himself! He had been to a good school which had really motivated teachers. They taught Lewis all he needed to know to pass the exams that he had to sit. That was the problem! Teaching young people to an exam specification. He said to me once “I was just told to do a question, I might get it wrong. I would be told again how to answer it. I would do it again until I got it right. That was how I passed an exam, that was the teaching I got!” Where was the ‘learning to learn’ that Lewis should have received? I don’t blame the teachers or the leadership team at the school he went to.
Government policy has created an educational system where only the result matters. It is a sad indictment that education in the UK is set up like this! I firmly believe that if a curriculum was broad enough to include skills for learning, then academic success would follow. We just have to look at Finland to see how that works well.
This is a direct quote written by Lewis;
“With the exception of English, my GCSE’s weren’t a struggle, I was in top set Science and English and I was one of the strongest in second set maths. School wasn’t hard at all for me and I was very confident about my academic skills. When I came into a working environment however it took me far too long to grow accustomed to working life. This initial serious struggle made me almost doubt my own intellect. It was almost like I had been lying to myself about how smart I thought that I was, which in turn added to the cause of my confidence crash.”
Fortunately Lewis joined a very supportive organisation that specialise in skills based learning programmes and accreditation for life and the workplace. Since these initial development needs were identified, Lewis’s skills in time management, task completion and being able to work independently have improved. He has also built his confidence back up. ASDAN have made that difference to Lewis and enabled him to make that giant stride forward in developing his employability skills. Lewis is lucky, other organisations may not have been this supportive!
THIS is therefore the reason why skills learning MUST take place in the classroom and government policy MUST allow the curriculum to be broad enough to develop this type of learning. Lewis’s story goes to prove that passing exams are only a part of being fully prepared for life and work in the 21st Century.