Apprenticeship Strategies for Lifelong Learning

5 min readJan 10, 2020


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If lifelong learning is the key to ensuring no one is left behind, then how can we make it a reality through integrating the concept in solid apprenticeship strategies?

With our campaign SkillingNow, we are exploring all angles of lifelong learning (LLL), including various definitions, concepts, and funding models, from the perspectives of business, government and policy makers. In this virtual panel, our aim was to understand best examples of apprenticeship systems that promote lifelong learning and how businesses and governments in various regions and countries can build bridges to ensure employees are continually developing skills past the apprenticeship phase. These views were based on a GAN Global organised, virtual panel discussion with key thought-leaders who are at the heart of transformative change in our labour markets.

Paul Champion, President, TransZed Apprenticeship Services, moderated the discussion between:

· Srinivas Reddy, Chief, Skills and Employability Branch, International Labour Organization (ILO)

· Sarah Kirby, Group Head of Organisation Design & HR Strategy, Zurich Insurance Company Ltd

· Ken Duncan, CEO, SkillSonics, South Africa

These individuals are dealing head on with how to develop skills in a world becoming increasingly knowledge-based. We delved into the topic of how these leaders are encouraging workforces with the ability to learn for life and how this can promote not only personal, but both business and national development. In some of the countries referred to in this panel, it was fascinating to learn how apprenticeships can facilitate lifelong learning.

“We need to replenish skills throughout a working career, and this calls for revisiting the models and concepts of lifelong learning to create the future we want.” — Guy Ryder, ILO Director-General

This virtual panel interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.

Question: Current and future generations will no longer be able to rely on the concept of a “job for life”. It’s predicted that the future workforce will have more job changes than past generations and that people will have to reinvent themselves over their working lives. How can apprenticeships help navigate these dilemmas?

A global skills downturn can have far more implications than a financial downturn. Let’s start by investigating programs globally on LLL. I would also like to know what the key elements are from your perspective, for LLL to be integrated in apprenticeship programmes.

Sarah Kirby: In Switzerland, apprenticeship is a tried and tested educational model that has been around for many years and is highly valued. Two-thirds of youth in Switzerland benefit from this type of education which has been leveraged for decades in our company. More than 85% of apprentices have stayed and some of our senior executives have even started their careers as apprentices. What is great about this model is that apprentices can explore different areas of the company’s department during their three year rotational program, making the journey quite seamless.

On challenges, I worked for many years in the banking space, particularly in the UK, where there is a struggle to spend apprenticeship levies. However, our company in the UK has done a fantastic job of maximizing the apprenticeship levies to support their work-based learning efforts.

The main hurdle with the levy in the UK is that the criteria is too narrow and onerous, which addresses only a skills gap in one’s current role. In the context of the Future of Work (FoW), we should be thinking beyond school leavers and considering people at all stages of their careers. This context provides us with a call to action for the entire skilling ecosystem on how we can align these skilling needs with broader societal challenges. For example, when considering apprenticeship models for target groups beyond school leavers, we can think about how to market it to other target groups and how we can scale to other regions of the world.

Srinivas Reddy: Inter-regional collaboration is important and we have learned so much from best practice models from other countries such as Switzerland, Germany and Austria. A key challenge for us is how to promote certain elements from these models to apply elsewhere. On promoting LLL, many countries are already embracing this concept. In Singapore for example, there are yearly grants for the age group of 35+ workers. Similarly in France and many countries in Africa, skilling, reskilling programs are also important. In Europe and the US, the issue of work to work transition, is not the future, it’s the present.

The concept of one job for life is no longer valid. When considering LLL, we also need to investigate the issue of who pays? Several models are emerging and this will be a centerpiece theme at next year’s International Labour Conference (ILC) on shared responsibility. The bottom line however is that employers need to embrace both apprenticeship and lifelong learning schemes.

Sometimes there is a lack of trust between government and employers in promoting apprenticeship. Some employers see this as an obligation as opposed to a real opportunity, this is why it is important to also have top-down advocacy such as CEOs acting as ambassadors for apprenticeship.

Ken Duncan: The funding power of governments to attract employer engagement is central to an overall solid skills system. In South Africa, there is a levy, and it must be streamlined and user-friendly. In South Africa, it’s extremely difficult to navigate. There doesn’t have to be a lot, in terms of financing, but enough to nudge employers in the right direction.

Work-based learning should be a compulsory component of TVET courses and integrated in all qualifications. We must not underestimate of value of foundational knowledge through apprenticeship. Even looking at traditional trades such as welding, one can continuously add to this foundational knowledge to become more specialized. There are hundreds of different types of welding for certification. The idea of being stuck in a trade no longer applies.

For example, the Swiss watchmaking industry almost died in the 80s because of difficulties in transforming from mechanical to digital practices. It was discovered that this trade can also extend to other practices such as micro technicians which opened doors to other sub-fields, this shows that apprenticeship can be a foundation for LLL.

We invite readers of this thought-piece to join the conversation. Share your ideas, recommendations and experiences on lifelong learning with a global audience, and stay tuned for SkillingNow Podcast Episode 9, capturing views, recommendations and experiences from experts and practitioners who promote skills acquisition through online learning and invest in digital competencies.

About the SkillingNow campaign

The Campaign SkillingNow is a global platform launched by GAN, with Accenture’s support, to deep-dive into a selection of pressing topics linked with work-based learning that are essential for bridging the skills gap, and creating a skilled workforce for the future of work. Throughout 2020, we will work with our members, networks, partners and thought-leaders around the world to explore topics and engage with broader audiences through thought pieces, podcasts, panels and more.




Official account of the Global Apprenticeship Network. Shaping Workforces of the Future.