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Institute of Continuing Education (ICE)

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Thanks in part to the Apprenticeship Levy – a fee paid by larger employers to fund worker training programmes – apprenticeships have become an increasingly important feature of career development in the UK. Reflecting this growth, ICE welcomes Dr Fergus McKay to lead its expanding portfolio of programmes for apprentices. 

If you think apprenticeship schemes are only available to sixteen-year-old school leavers looking to learn a trade, then you might be surprised by the range of opportunities available nowadays. “Higher and degree apprenticeships are workplace programmes that combine full-time work with industry-designed qualifications,” explains Fergus. “They enable individuals to gain a full undergraduate or Master’s degree qualification while you work..” 

Targeted training while you work 

ICE’s new Deputy Director of Academic Centres for Apprenticeships and Technical Education is no stranger to the breadth of options in continuing education. Having joined from the University of Warwick’ s Centre for Lifelong Learning, where, among other things, he developed professional training programmes, part-time degrees and expanded widening participation provision at the University Fergus’ career flows from his research interests in the origins of adult learning and contemporary workplace learning. 

The great value in apprenticeships, says Fergus, is that whatever the level of study, apprentices are learning knowledge, skills and behaviours (KSBs) that are directly relevant to their job and are able to learn while maintaining their employment: “Apprenticeships are delivered in conjunction with employers and based upon approved workplace standards for a defined occupation. Apprentices are normally employed for a minimum of 30 hours per week. Within their working life, they’ll spend 80% of their time at work – in what’s commonly known as on-the-job training – and 20% of their time developing new KSBs in off-the-job training with us at ICE.” 

Fergus is also quick to point out that those two elements of apprenticeship life don’t exist in isolation from each other, with employer and Institute coordinating closely for everyone’s benefit: “As well as inviting employers to contribute to the development of our courses and programmes, we also liaise regularly with each employer to ensure the educational, training and pastoral needs of individual apprentices are fully supported. 

“Thanks to the Levy, tuition is free for the individual, with the fees paid for by the government and employers. Apprentices are able to apply their learning to their day-to-day work immediately, and develop their technical and education skills. Employers are able to upskill existing employees to fill their skills gaps and develop and retain their talent to become future leaders, which in turn supports regional and national economic and skills agendas.” 

Apprenticeships for diverse disciplines 

ICE already runs several apprenticeships covering a wide range of professions – from Master’s in both Architecture and Applied Criminology to Postgraduate Certificates in Research and Innovation and Learning Design and Teaching – and over the next twelve months they are planning to offer several more programmes, including a Postgraduate Diploma in Curatorship. 

“ICE is fully committed to developing an outstanding Higher and Degree Apprenticeship provision that serves the needs of the local, regional and national skills agenda and provides a range of opportunities for individuals from all walks of life to undertake vocational and technical training with the University of Cambridge. We intend to expand this provision over the next 5 years and will work with a variety of employers, training providers, professional bodies and government agencies to ensure we continue to develop training programmes that contribute to the economy and provide opportunities for individuals to develop a variety of professional and personal skills and attributes.” 

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