2022 sees the 15th National Apprenticeship Week (7 to 13 February) take place and the launch of the second Local Government Apprentice of the Year Awards. Jamie Saddler, Apprenticeships Adviser at the LGA, reflects on the success of the inaugural event last year and previews what’s in store for this year.
National Apprenticeships Week is always a great time to shine a spotlight on the apprentices in our organisations and to reflect on their importance to councils throughout the country. While there have long been a variety of events up and down the country to celebrate apprentices’ successes, both in individual councils and at regional level, there was previously no national event focusing specifically on apprentices in local government.
Last year, two regional employers’ organisations – East of England LGA (EELGA) and South West Councils – came together to discuss changing that. They had both run ‘apprenticeship challenge’ events in their region before the pandemic and were looking at whether they could move their events online and perhaps run one jointly. Once they worked out how they could deliver a virtual event, they realised that there was no reason not to open it up to the whole of England. That’s when they approached the LGA to ask for our help in getting the word out and to come on board as sponsor.
The event would have a similar format to the previous in-person ‘challenge’ events: apprentices assessed throughout the day across six tasks involving solving problems for residents of a fictional town – designed to mirror decisions councils are taking every day. An overall winner, runners-up and a winning team would be announced at the end.
Moving the event entirely online – a necessity if it was to take place at all during the pandemic – did make us a little nervous. Would the format work as well done remotely?
As it turned out, the 2021 Local Government Apprentice of the Year event was an outstanding success. The online format didn’t detract from the good things we liked about the in-person version and led to some new benefits. Teams were still able to come together and work effectively, while networking time was built into the day so people could get to know each other and share ideas. The virtual nature of the event meant it could be truly national and allow apprentices to take part from all over the country. And we were able to secure then-Apprenticeships Minister Gillian Keegan’s attendance, giving the apprentices the opportunity to ask questions direct to the minister, which was extremely well-received. In the end, more than 110 apprentices took part from eight of the nine English regions and feedback from attendees was overwhelmingly positive.
The First Local Government Apprentice of the Year
Our inaugural winner was Karla Overington, a Business Administration Apprentice from West Sussex County Council. Karla felt the event required her to demonstrate engagement, teamwork and networking skills, while working with people she had never met before gave her the opportunity to see how others work and enabled her to hear about the ideas they had. Karla admits that although the day was busy, by the end she was left feeling ecstatic.
“I thought the day was incredibly well organised and it had a great flow to it. Everything was explained very well, and I was confident that I knew what was being asked of me."
Since the event, Karla has taken the opportunity to reflect on what went well and hopes to use the event as a learning experience to help her improve her skills and knowledge as well as using it as a springboard to help secure a permanent role with the council in the future.
Learning and development opportunities and delivering an accessible event
Although prizes were available for the winning apprentice, team and runners-up, winning was not the be-all and end-all of the event for many attendees. For many, like Peter Blake from Dorset Council, taking part in the event and taking advantage of the many learning and development opportunities on offer was just as important. Peter, who is a Level 2 Countryside Worker Apprentice, said, “It’s an all-day event that tests the abilities you have learned already and teaches you more through taking part in activities with a number of apprentices across the country with countless different backgrounds and current positions. It is hard work, but also a lot of fun and very rewarding.” When asked what tips he would give to apprentices who are considering taking part in the event in future he said,
“I would say to keep an open mind with it and to not be afraid to contribute. Really test yourself and go for broke. See what happens!”
We also worked hard to make sure that the event was accessible to all who wanted to take part. Audrey Tonge, a Level 3 Business Administration Apprentice at Hertfordshire County Council is registered blind. She decided to take part in the event as she was coming towards the end of her apprenticeship. Prior to the day, Audrey found herself nervous about how it would operate and how her sight impairment would be accommodated. However, she found herself being impressed with all those involved in the organisation and delivery of the event and their continued support throughout the day as they regularly checked-in with her to make sure she had everything she needed to fully participate.
Launching the 2022 event
Following the success of the first event, EELGA, South West Councils and the LGA got together and agreed to try and make the Local Government Apprentice of the Year a more permanent fixture in the apprenticeship calendar. Planning has been underway for the 2022 event for several months and the LGA has agreed to sponsor the event for at least the next two years.
We’re proud to use National Apprenticeship Week 2022 to officially launch the Local Government Apprentice of the Year 2022. This exciting event will once again provide the opportunity for apprentices to learn, network and showcase their skills, expertise, and initiative. Apprentices will again work in virtual teams to experience the opportunities, risks and challenges involved in delivering successful local government services, in a developmental environment.
We’ve made some slight changes to the format, including splitting it over two days, with the activities themselves taking place on 25 May, and the presentation of prizes and Q&A with our special guest speaker the following day. This will also give line managers of apprentices taking part the opportunity to attend the ceremony on the second day to support and congratulate their apprentices.
Registration is now open until 4 May 2022 with places costing £149 each to cover the costs of developing, organising and delivering the event (none of the organisations delivering it are making a profit, this is purely to cover costs). Places are open to any current Level 2 or Level 3 Apprentice working in local government.