Dyslexia & apprenticeships

Dyslexia and apprenticeships  Adam Davis

 During the 10th July 2013 session in the House of Lords, Liberal Democrat peer, Lord Addington – a dyslexic himself – asked Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to make apprenticeships accessible to dyslexic people. His request was to further improve services for dyslexics in government run apprenticeship schemes.

Baroness Garden of Frognal reported that “final data for 2010-11 show that 18,940 learners participating on an apprenticeship programme self-declared that they had dyslexia. They had a success rate of 72.6% compared to 76.4% overall”.
Though suggested as a possible option to increase dyslexic success during apprenticeships using the Department for Work and Pension’s (DWP) “Access to Work and additional learning support [through colleges]”, no evidence was given relating to these alternate pathways. Often hailed as ‘the Governments best kept secret’, the Access to Work Scheme includes travel costs, specially adapted equipment, training or support workers.

Whilst assistive technology is available to students in university, the written examination at the end of the apprenticeship does not accommodate dyslexic needs. Technology has been stated as offering further solutions “with apps and packages such as Prismo, Livescribe, Dragon and others.” A stakeholders meeting has been recommended to include the Adult Dyslexia Organisation and BDA. The ADO has been in discussions with the Apprenticeship Unit and the Access to Work team to suggest the joint development of guidelines and best practice on dyslexia within apprenticeships. Specific Learning difficulties such as dyspraxia and dyscalculia are being addressed by Peter Little OBE. The National Apprenticeship Service is making an action plan aimed at improving provisions in accessibility to this demographic.

emma rogers

Past successes include Emma Rogers, who struggled at school with dyslexia for many years. Having enrolled on a beauty apprenticeship in 2010, she went on to be awarded the Adult Learners Week Apprentice of the Year 2013; she credits much of her success to the support she gained at Western College. The work experience on day release from college allowed her to hone her talents in practice. She opened a salon in November 2012 and currently uses her expertise to train new apprentices.

Support for hair and beauty apprentices such as Emma is partly a result of the work of Habia, the Hair and Beauty Industry Authority. Several years ago they worked in partnership with the ADO to help develop a dyslexic friendly approach to their apprentice hairdressers. ADO rewrote their NVQ L1, 2, & 3 courses to improve their accessibility to dyslexic learners. The industry was then recognised by the Adult Learner’s Inspectorate, and more recently was cited by Ofsted as an example of best practice. ADO went on to assist Habia with its “Support for dyslexic hairdressing trainees” guidance program.

Vince Cable MP (Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills) announced on the 24th July 2013 that private employers will be able to cater specifically, the acquisition of an apprenticeship, providing value for money with bespoke educational training. Vince Cable said “Employers are the best people to judge what training is worth investing in. These reforms will mean just that…It gives them the power to train their staff to make sure their skills are relevant to the company, while choosing from the wide range of courses available.“ The Current Apprenticeship Grant for Employers (AGE) will be extended by one year. This will offer long-term training programs and potentially deeper binding commitment to the company at hand. Small to medium sized companies are projected to see 30,000 more young people awarded the grant as a result.

A study conducted by CASS Business School (Dyslexic Entrepreneurs: The Incidence; Their Coping Strategies and Their Business Skills) has suggested that around 20% of UK entrepreneurs show dyslexic characteristics – a figure which was corroborated by research by Business Link for London. The government and economy will benefit greatly from a vested interest in the achievements of dyslexics, but only with interdisciplinary approaches to learning.

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