National Apprenticeship Week 2023: How colleges and FE providers can celebrate the ‘Cinderella Sector’

It’s National Apprenticeship Week (NAW); an opportunity to not just celebrate apprentices’ individual successes, but to more broadly champion further education (FE) and the diverse range of doors it opens for learners. Though a historically underappreciated sector, increased advocacy from both the government and the opposition alongside a wider push on ‘skills’ has meant FE is gaining some exciting momentum.

As recommended in PLMR and Teacher Tapp’s report on teachers’ understanding of apprenticeships, it has this week been confirmed these courses will now be listed on the Ucas portal and, from 2024, young people will be able to apply to them through there as well – an important step in tackling an inherent bias towards higher education. But what can colleges, independent training providers, and FE institutions do to further champion and amplify their work in a crowded education sector? Here are a few top tips which can work all year round, not just during NAW.

  1. Celebrate individual excellence

Colleges are integral in providing educational opportunities to not just 16 to 18-year-olds, but learners of all ages. As a result, thousands of students pass through the doors of FE institutions every single day. Many of these will have interesting stories to tell; whether it’s about their varying starting points, the course they are taking, or their ambitions for the future. Consider doing a ‘day in the life’ with an apprentice and amplifying this on social media, or by sharing stories with your local newspaper. Think also about national and international competitions. Organisations like WorldSkills UK provide fantastic opportunities for apprentices and run competitions which both empower learners and provide colleges with some exciting news to share.

  1. Leverage your networks

The impact that FE colleges and institutions have on their local communities is often underestimated. On average, colleges work with more than 500 local and regional businesses and are very often themselves one of the largest employers in their area. Celebrating these partnerships can underline the positive progression opportunities available to learners, while providing both your college and these businesses with useful exposure. Case studies and joint stories can outline the wide range of options and destinations which are made available to learners if they pursue FE, and can be leveraged to make a splash in local media.

  1. Back to the future

Alongside the students currently at your college or institution, there will also be hundreds of individuals who have gone on to achieve exciting careers. Utilising your alumni network or reaching out to individual alums can provide you with engaging case studies. Not only can this be inspiring for your current or prospective learners, but it will help to underline the quality of teaching at your college, and provide you with positive case studies which can be used on both social media and through marketing collateral. You may also consider whether alumni events and/or talks could deliver a similarly positive message.

  1. Showcase your expertise

Many colleges and institutions have specialisms, whether that’s agriculture, science, catering, or anything in between. These specialisms can provide engaging and visual stories for local journalists and media outlets. More so, the qualities which make your college unique also ensure you are in a good position to pursue comment opportunities and op-eds in trade publications, meaning you can use your knowledge to advocate for the wider sector.

If you have a story which you would like help amplifying, or a specialism which you would like to shout about, then please do get in contact via luke.walpole@plmr.co.uk.

PLMR’s market leading education practice has extensive experience supporting institutions in the sector with positive PR activity, public affairs engagement, strategic advice, and reputational management support.

PLMR’s CEO, Kevin Craig, discusses Post Office scandal, conversion therapy and the elderly’s status of wealth on LBC

Persistent funding problems in education

Add PLMR to your contacts

PLMR’s crisis communications experience is second to none, and includes pre-emptive and reactive work across traditional and social media channels. We work with a range of organisations to offer critical communication support when they are faced with difficult and challenging scenarios.