'Build the Future' is the theme for National Apprenticeship Week 2021, taking place this week (8-14 February) across England. The initiative aims to encourage everyone to consider how apprenticeships help individuals to build the skills and knowledge required for a rewarding career. A new cohort of apprentices recently started studying for the Safety, Health and Environment (SHE) Technician Apprenticeship at Lakes College in Workington, Cumbria. IOSH magazine spoke to the college's Michael Stuart and Woodward SHE's Tom Duggan to find out how it's going.
Launched almost three years ago, the SHE technician apprenticeship is a level three qualification (the equivalent of two A Levels). Completion of the two-year course enables apprentices to start their career as a safety and health professional and join IOSH at TechIOSH level.
How much interest have you had in the SHE Technician Apprenticeship?
Since launching the apprenticeship in January 2021, we have had constructive conversations with both large employers and also SMEs, regarding how this apprenticeship could benefit them and their workforce. The spread of COVID-19 has better highlighted the need for dedicated health and safety advisors within SMEs, but with the pandemic hopefully coming to an end sometime this year, we will be continuing to build the relationships with our employer base.
How many apprentices are on the course?
We currently have seven apprentices in our first cohort, with the ability to ramp up the numbers for the consecutive groups. The relatively small first set allows us to test the new partnership we have developed with Woodward SHE, which is delivering a fantastic programme, to cover the knowledge aspects of the apprenticeship.
What core OSH skills can apprentices expect to acquire during the course?
This is an ideal course for both new starters to a health and safety role and also for someone who wants to expand their knowledge and involvement in the safety, health, and environmental side of their chosen industry. The programme that we have designed with Woodward SHE will give those individuals the tools they need to develop their understanding of safe working systems and how to implement them, deliver informal SHE training, investigate incidents, interrogate data and present this data to management in an easy to understand format.
The programme will also give delegates a wider understanding of UK law that surrounds SHE, how to carry out impact assessments, plan for dealing with an environmental emergency and much more within this area. Woodward SHE will also be delivering some extra training on top of the OSH Skills, which will include the softer employability skills required in the type of roles the apprentices will be working in. This includes presentation skills and communications skills in general, which will help the individuals make the most of the OSH skills they are gaining.
How has the pandemic affected how you deliver the learning? What challenges and opportunities has it presented?
The pandemic has given the college the opportunity to demonstrate how agile and adaptable we are. Due to the current government restrictions all our delivery must take place online during lockdowns. This has presented us with challenges, however we now have vast experience of delivering online due to the first lockdown in 2020 and we have worked with Woodward SHE to share our experience. We have had to look at how our apprentices receive their course materials, especially those resources that can’t be shared digitally, but this was easily overcome. The biggest obstacle we have faced, as well as every other college, is the occasional failure of Internet connections or hardware, but those are the symptoms of delivering online and everyone involved has responded brilliantly to the new challenges the sector has faced.
Why should employers offer the Level 3 SHE Technician Apprenticeship?
This apprenticeship offers a fantastic package to those working within the SHE profession. Safety, health and the environment is continuing to climb higher up the agenda for organisations both large and small, in line with social responsibility. The current pandemic has hastened this climb, therefore it makes sense for organisations to ensure that they have the skills required within their organisation by developing their own SHE professionals and this programme enables them to do that.
This particular apprenticeship is being delivered by IOSH Council member Joanne Price CMIOSH. We will endeavour to keep readers updated with the apprentices' progress.