Sara’s Blog: Looking back at National Apprenticeship Week 2022 and the lifting of Covid restrictions

All this week we have been busy with our events as part of National Apprenticeship Week 2022, the 15th annual week-long celebration of apprenticeships.

The week brings together businesses and apprentices across the country to shine a light on the positive impact that apprenticeships make on individuals, businesses, and the wider economy.

Businesses of all sizes emerging from the pandemic need a skilled workforce and don’t want to lose out on the next generation. Government is more invested than ever before in apprenticeships and surveys also show that most young people would now consider an apprenticeship.

We have been working alongside Chamber patrons Staffordshire University and scores of local businesses to highlight what a fantastic contribution apprentices can make to a business and how apprentices go on to be our future workforce, management, and leaders.

The theme for National Apprenticeship Week 2022 has been ‘build the future’; reflecting on how apprenticeships can help individuals to develop the skills and knowledge required for a rewarding career, and businesses to develop a talented workforce that is equipped with future-ready skills.

World class apprenticeships, which have fared well overall through the pandemic, are a fantastic tool for levelling up and must underpin opportunities for all. They are available at four levels, starting with intermediate, equivalent to five GCSEs, up to degree level.

The government has pointed the way forward for levelling up opportunities for everyone across the country and apprenticeships and skills training will be vital to that. National Apprenticeship Week is the perfect opportunity to shout from the rooftops about all the incredible opportunities that apprenticeships now provide to get a foot on the careers ladder and progress to the top.

One of the highlights of the week was our open meeting with a panel of professional people who are involved with apprenticeships. The panel consisted of Gareth Higgins MBE – group managing director of KMF Group, Steve Tellwright – HR director of Capula and Katy Chesters – business development manager for apprenticeships employer partnerships at Staffordshire University.

Chamber patrons KMF Group set up their own apprenticeship scheme, with an in-house apprentice school several years ago and it has been recognised both regionally and nationally as an example of best practice.

As well as all the traditional trades, apprenticeships now train tomorrow’s economists, nurses, aerospace engineers, countryside rangers, brewers, laboratory scientists, graphic designers and even archaeologists up to degree level. The possibilities are endless.

Although many businesses have found it tough, apprenticeship uptake remained strong throughout the Covid-19 pandemic. There was just a 0.3 per cent fall last year and recent figures show they are recovering to pre-Covid levels.

Nationally, vacancies doubled last November compared to the year before, which shows employers are also now working hard to recruit.

Apprenticeships have extremely high satisfaction rates with employers (85 per cent) and they generate a lot of loyalty among the trainees. There are over 640 apprenticeships to choose from covering a massive variety of jobs.

They are also a great tool for young people to get a foot on the employment ladder. Around half of those who started on apprenticeships last year were aged over 25 and nationally the number of economically inactive young people has gone up by over 100,000 since the start of the pandemic.

You can find out more about what apprentices can do for your business at the following links:

Hire an apprentice
Apprenticeship courses – Staffordshire University 
Apprenticeships – Keele University
Find out about Apprenticeships | Buxton & Leek College (
NSCG | Apprenticeships
Apprenticeships – South Staffordshire College (
Apprenticeships at Stoke on Trent College – Stoke-on-Trent College :Stoke-on-Trent College (


The lifting of Covid restrictions
On Wednesday the PM announced that all remaining Covid restrictions, including the legal rule to self-isolate could be lifted a month earlier than planned.
Under the current rules, anyone who tests positive must self-isolate for at least five days.

The current restrictions are due to expire on 24 March, but Mr Johnson told MPs he expected the last domestic rules would end early if the positive trends in the data continued. He said he intended to return after parliamentary recess – which runs from Thursday to 21st February – to outline the government’s strategy for living with Covid.


The trends are positive – hospital cases are continuing to fall, and the huge wave of infections caused by Omicron has not pushed overall deaths above what would normally be seen in winter.


But this decision has still taken most by surprise and with infection levels still high and it’s unclear what this will do to the spread of the virus.


However, not every infected person was self-isolating anyway and in recent months the testing system has only picking up half of all infections – at the peak it was missing around an estimated 200,000 cases a day. In addition, about one in five of those who test positive do not fully adhere to the self-isolation requirements.


We are fast approaching the point where it treats Covid like any other respiratory illness.

The move is also likely to pave the way for the dismantling of the community testing system, with many experts believing tests will soon only be used in settings such as care homes and hospitals – or to deal with major outbreaks.


If you want to talk to us about any business issues, including funding, you can call our switchboard on 01782 202222 or call the Stoke and Staffs Growth Hub Helpline on 0300 111 8002 or email:

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