National Apprenticeship Week 2021: Bridging Skill Gaps

National Apprenticeship Week 2021: Speakers for Schools and The London Progression Collaboration

The theme of this year’s National Apprenticeship Week is ‘Build the Future’, a mantra that encourages us to think broadly about how can work with young people at different stages of developing talent and meet the UK’s skills needs. Rightly, focus during this week will be directed at employers who are driving impact through their support of apprentices and their development. However, just as important are those businesses engaging with schools to develop career aspiration from an early stage.

We know that there is untapped potential in the apprenticeship system. Recent research by London Councils has shown that only 8% of London businesses employ apprentices, and the majority of employers are not making full use of their apprenticeship levy. We also know that the skills gap employers were facing pre-pandemic has not gone away, with a range of sectors struggling to attract the talent they need to fill key roles in addition to emerging areas such as technology and green skills.

Practical support is needed to guide employers on how to make the most of apprenticeships, as well as employer-led integration with schools to promote apprenticeships as an exciting, stable career pathway. The London Progression Collaboration and Speakers for Schools are working with employers on these aspects, helping them engage talent at different stages of the learning journey.

The new challenges and restrictions brought on by the pandemic have reshaped young people’s horizons which is why this week’s focus is ‘Build the Future’. With schools and colleges closed, young people are missing out on fundamental personal development in and out of the classroom; character-forming lessons and conversations that begin to address the ultimate question: ‘Who do I want to be?’ To combat this, training providers have worked hard to pivot apprenticeship learning online, with learners engaging remotely up and down the country.

Despite the challenges of digital learning, it is crucial that young people have access to career options outside of the ‘university route’. That is why National Apprenticeship Week celebrates the broad range of skills and qualifications on offer that may not be common knowledge and is needed more than ever. An apprenticeship is a great way to get hands-on experience whilst studying for a qualification in that field. Benefits include:

  • Hands-on experience that will future-proof your career.
  • Qualifications that will prove your level of knowledge and skill.
  • Your completed apprenticeship demonstrating your achievements.

National Apprenticeship Week 2021 will be different this year, but there will be lots of inspiring stories of employers and apprentices who have worked virtually during the pandemic and made a positive impact on their business and community. During the week The LPC will be delivering, highlighting the impact of apprenticeships on many areas, from building a more diverse workforce to business recovery.

In support of #NAW21, Speakers for Schools is running talks and work experiences to discover careers in sectors that may be unfamiliar to young people, supporting them to consider the potential of apprenticeships at an early stage.

Speakers for Schools and The London Progression Collaboration

Speakers for Schools was founded in 2010 by ITV’s Political Editor Robert Peston, and supported by the Law Family Charitable Foundation, with a mission to level the playing field for young people. It aims to end educational inequality by giving access to the same networks as the top fee-paying schools in the UK through inspirational talks and work placements.
To do this, Speakers for Schools has an extensive directory of almost 2000 speakers from Gareth Southgate to Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson and over 250 work experience employers such as Spotify, Penguin Random House, Man Group and more.

The London Progression Collaboration (The LPC) is a pilot initiative to create new apprenticeships for low-paid Londoners. It is incubated by the Institute for Public Policy Research and delivered in partnership with the Greater London Authority, with support from J.P. Morgan and the Mayor of London. Our mission is to help more than 1,000 Londoners to progress into work, and from low-paid work into better-quality, higher-paying jobs. To deliver this, we support employers to create new apprenticeships which meet their and their sector’s skills needs, and which offer sustainable progression opportunities to Londoners.

  • The LPC Reskilling the Recovery campaign was launched in June 2020 to enable small businesses to access levy transfer funds through transfer, to help them access the skills needed to support recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. The campaign has so far secured c.4 million in unspent levy from large employers.
  • Speakers for Schools and the LPC are working in collaboration to support employers make full use of apprenticeships, from practical support to navigate the apprenticeship and levy system, to help to build schools partnerships that can meet long-term skills challenges. In March, we will be running a webinar focused on these issues, with the opportunity to hear from employers engaged in successful schools and apprenticeships activity.

In the meantime, try out a work experience placement with Speakers for Schools and get practical support with apprenticeship development from The LPC. Go to and to find out more.