Apprenticeship Levy, News

What is quality training? What makes a quality apprenticeship?

21 February 2017 by Isla Lightfoot

‘Quality’ is one of those words that is used a lot. We all want ‘quality’ provision. We all want to improve ‘quality’ in apprenticeships.

The cynical me thinks that we will still be having this conversation in twenty years’ time without much progress having been made.

The optimistic me hopes that the introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy will bring about genuine employer-choice and a functioning market which will drive a transformation in the quality of delivery.

What do we really mean by quality? I suspect that the word is often used without really understanding what goes into great quality provision.

When I use the word ‘quality’ in the context of apprenticeships I have four key pillars in mind.

Quality Pillar 1: Great Content.

Quality apprenticeships are built on great course material. Content should be cutting-edge, challenging, appropriately pitched, relevant, inspiring and accessible.

I reviewed a lot of potential content to use at the Corndel Leadership and Management School. Most of it was simply awful. The theory was from the mid-1990s. Workbooks were tacky and looked like cheap colouring in books for recalcitrant toddlers. One ‘workbook’ that I reviewed was on using information and data in decision making – a fascinating topic particularly in today’s world. On page 102 of this ‘workbook’ was the question: ‘What information and data would you use in deciding what type of filing cabinet to buy?’ Hardly the sort of decision a manager would be making and indicative of the low aspirations of the course content. At that point I decided that Corndel would build its own content.

Great content is a pre-requisite for quality training. But great content delivered badly is bad. That is why you need great people.

Quality Pillar 2: Great People.

All organisations need great people to survive and thrive. This is particularly true in the world of learning. We all remember great teachers that we have had. Great managers and mentors make an enormous impact on us as people and employees.

It is not always true that there is a correlation between ability and salary but paying a higher salary generally gives you a wider pool of people to choose from.

The average person delivering Leadership and Management Apprenticeships is paid £22,000. The average manager in the UK is paid £34,000. Teachers need to be credible with their students. They need to have lived experience of the subject that they are teaching. It is simply not possible to find (at scale) managers with lived experience who will work full-time for £22,000.

At Corndel we start our Professional Development Experts (the people who deliver our Leadership and Management Diploma) at £65,000.

Great people delivering great course content goes a long way to delivering quality. But even this is not enough in the 21st century.

Quality Pillar 3: Great Delivery

When I did my degree in Philosophy I was taught by slightly mad professors delivering hour long lectures to a roomful of mostly sleepy students some of whom took notes. This was a terribly inefficient way of delivering learning. Fortunately the world has moved on. If I want to learn Portuguese I can do so watching 5 minute Youtube videos in my lunch hour. Learning content is now delivered by video, podcast, webinars as well as more traditional printed media and talks. Quality apprenticeship learning recognises that delivery is best done using a variety of methods that adapt to each learner’s unique learning style taking full advantage of 21 century technology. Forget workbooks, think podcasts. Forget a day away from the workplace, think learning on your commute.

Apprenticeship providers need to catch up with the modern world and deliver apprenticeships in a way that is efficient, best suits the learner and best suits their employer.

Quality Pillar 4: 100% Compliance

I suspect that a lot of training providers mean ‘compliance’ when they say ‘quality’. This is what 20 years of government-led (rather than employer-led) training teaches a market. While compliance is not synonymous with quality it is a necessary condition of quality apprenticeship delivery. No employer is going to consider an apprenticeship ‘quality’ if the SFA recovers the money for that apprenticeship because one of their boxes wasn’t ticked. Absolute compliance with government funding rules is necessary for a quality apprenticeship.


‘Quality’ is an over-used and under-defined term in vocational training and apprenticeships. I believe that there are four absolutely critical components to quality delivery:

1)     Great Content

2)     Great People

3)     Great Delivery

4)     100% Compliance

If you are choosing a training provider to partner with you might want to ask them about these four areas.

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