Employers asked for input as £27,000 watchmaker apprenticeship scheme edges closer


The architects of a watchmaking apprenticeship scheme are asking for the industry to give its opinions on the final details as it edges closer to launch.

The Trailblazer Apprenticeship scheme has secured agreement from the government’s Education and Skills Funding Agency for funding of £27,000 that employers can put towards training watchmakers over a two year period.

Uxbridge College has become the Lead Provider to deliver the Watchmaker Apprenticeship, and discussions with an assessment organisation to establish a qualification based on the training are well advanced.


Work with the Assessment Organisation has commenced ready for the End-point Assessment and there has been an in-depth consideration of the best approach for delivery.  Briefly, there are two possibilities for employers to consider:

  1. Block Release:
    The apprentice periodically spends a period away from the workplace receiving training as part of a small group of apprentices. These blocks would provide a concentrated period of instruction for each of the modules in the apprenticeship.  For example, when beginning to work on mechanical watches, there would be a week when the basics are taught.  The apprentice then returns to the workplace to practise these skills.  Further blocks of teaching would be provided as the apprenticeship progresses.  The associated knowledge could be taught either during the block release sessions or provided on line.  Each centre providing block release would become a subcontractor to the lead Provider Uxbridge College.

    • For: There is the advantage, particularly for smaller businesses, where there may be insufficient time available to provide such in-depth teaching. It is costly for the employer to provide one to one instruction, a small group of apprentices could be taught more economically together.
    • Against: If block release is the only approach for delivery, larger companies would be unable to access apprenticeship funding for the on-site training that they are already providing.
    • Against: It is unlikely that block release will be available nearby.
  2. Training in the workplace:
    The traditional approach, the employer provides the practical skills training in the workplace and receives payments to help offset time spent teaching the apprentice; knowledge would be taught on line. Each separate business would become a subcontractor to Uxbridge College for delivering the training.

    • For: The teaching is always available exactly when it is required and tailored to the individual needs of the business.
    • Against: Each employer would become a subcontractor to the Lead Provider, Uxbridge College and would have to follow the funding rules laid down by the Education and Skills Funding Agency. The funding rules are complex and bureaucratic.  There would be many subcontractors, instead of just one or two centres providing block release. Additionally, there is an increased burden on Uxbridge College to maintain quality assurance over so many subcontractors.  Subcontracting would prove costly for Uxbridge College to manage resulting in reduced funding for the actual apprenticeship.
    • Against: Small businesses might find it impossible to meet the requirements of the funding rules.

At the outset it is proposed that the block release model is followed using the specialist in-house training facilities available within an independent servicing company which is recognised by the majority of brands.  Training places will be limited.

The team behind the Trailblazer Apprenticeship are now asking for the industry to give its views on the scheme and indicate whether they will get involved. Specifically:

  1. At a stage we need to start identifying the first apprentices:
    Would you consider employing an apprentice?

    1. If yes, when would you anticipate their apprenticeship should begin:
      1. As soon as possible.
      2. Within a year.
      3. Possibly in the future.

  1. Do you have a preference?
    1. Training by Block Release – the apprentice spends ‘blocks’ of time receiving training at a centre.
    2. Training in the workplace – you are responsible for providing the training on your premises.

The funding band of £27,000 can make a huge difference to the number of watchmakers.

Please get in touch, your opinion will help shape the future.

For your response, or if you require further information, please contact:

Matt Bowling:  Matt.Bowling@watchfinder.co.uk

David Poole: clocks@davidpoole.co.uk


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