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[Editor’s note: Guest post written by Luke Stevens-Burt, Assistant Director, Member Services at CILIP, the library and information association.]

The introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy and a sizeable target of 3,000,000 apprenticeships by 2020 set by the government has rekindled interest in the value of apprenticeships. Our sector is not excluded from this and in 2017 an exciting and important project was launched to convene a group of “trailblazers” to develop new standards for the profession.

The development work on the standards is yet to begin, but it is envisaged that three new standards will be produced over the next 24 months: level three, four and six. They will be designed so that they can be used in any of the many sectors that this diverse profession covers (e.g. health, public, legal, education) and for a number of roles within libraries, archives, records, knowledge and information management.

Survey to gather needs

To help the trailblazers understand the need for apprenticeships (and at what level) a survey was held in May. More than 400 responses from across all sectors were received which is a clear indication of the level of interest there is. Just over 30% indicated definite intentions to deliver a profession-specific apprenticeship, whilst nearly 50% were unsure at this stage. Those who responded positively estimate a total of 200 apprenticeship starts once the new standard was launched. Levels three, four and six were identified as needed the most and of these level three is most likely to be implemented in the workplace.

The majority viewed apprenticeship schemes as a way of bringing new staff into the organisation. The trailblazers felt that using apprenticeships as a recruitment driver would help address diversity shortfalls within the profession. Developing existing staff through apprenticeships was also seen as important by respondents, with many of them seeing them as a way of helping to plug skills gaps over the next five years.

The role of trailblazers

The standards need to be driven by the sector and a panel of 22 employer representatives from a variety of sectors (known as “trailblazers”) has been convened to develop the standards. CILIP has been tasked with facilitating and supporting this group with further representation and input from ARA (The Archives and Records Association) and the British and Irish Association of Law Librarians (BIALL). The group will be co-chaired: Jacqueline Chelin, Deputy Director of Library Services, University of the West of England will be acting as Chair; and Sandra Smythe, Knowledge Manager, Mishcon de Reya LLP will be acting as Vice Chair.

Whilst CILIP is involved in the development process, there are further considerations for how it will support apprenticeships in the future. There are a number of options, including training provision and quality assessment, but most important will be the role of supporting the profession in delivering apprenticeships and raising awareness of the new standards. There are massive advantages to the libraries, archives, records, knowledge and information management workforce in using vocational training. It helps to create new routes into the profession as well as career progression that encourages a diverse and dynamic workforce, equipped with the skills and knowledge required for these important activities. Professional Registration sits well alongside this framework and CILIP will work closely with the trailblazer group to ensure that the standards provide a clear path to take this up.

What happens next?

The next steps will involve developing the standards, starting with level three. It is expected that the standard will be ready for delivery in 12-18 months time, with the others (four and six) following in the months after that. If you would like to keep up to date with the progress of the trailblazer group, please email

[Editor's note: UPDATE: To illustrate that this is just another step along the road, I’ve noticed a couple of pieces recently, about apprentices in libraries developing their skills including Katja and Katie in Hampshire. Keep an eye out here too, for a second guest post on apprenticeships, which will outline the work GLL are doing.]

Please note, this is a guest blog. Views expressed here do not necessarily represent the views of DCMS or the Libraries Taskforce

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