The National Apprenticeship Service wants apprentices to tell them about their experiences…via text

  • Emma Finamore
  • 05 Jan 2019

It’s a simple system using chatbot technology.

The National Apprenticeship Service can point them to useful resources.

Industry moves fast and the National Apprenticeship Service wants to make sure apprenticeships move with the times, and remain relevant and effective.

They’re hoping to do this by starting by getting real-time feedback from apprentices to see how their apprenticeships are going and if their course is moving them toward their goals.

Are apprentices up for this? 

In National Apprenticeship Service research sessions, apprentices have consistently told us they’re happy to give feedback regularly if it’s quick, easy and it has a clear purpose.

They wanted to give feedback by text message. When they start their apprenticeship, apprentices are asked for their phone number and for consent to be contacted by phone for surveys like this.

By answering their questions, apprentices are providing valuable feedback.

What they’re asking apprentices about

By answering their questions, apprentices are providing valuable feedback. For example, their answers let the National Apprenticeship Service know if they are getting:

  • The skills they need to progress in their job?
  • The support they need?
  • Time off the job to do their training?

When talking to apprentices, some told the National Apprenticeship Service that industry tends to advance faster than their apprenticeship, for example some aspects of their apprenticeship training are no longer relevant for their work.

They hope to ask apprentices about this to help drive the quality of standards.

The National Apprenticeship Service has also been talking to the Institute for Apprenticeships. They can then collaborate to tailor the text messages to ask specific questions about particular standards and help them review and improve apprenticeship standards.

How they’re doing it 

You might think it would be time consuming to have a text conversation with a large number of apprentices across England. But the National Apprenticeship Service has built a simple system using chatbot technology, which means the whole process is automated.

The system works intuitively. If apprentices give positive responses to questions, they can reply with positive, supportive messages. If an apprentice’s response suggests that they’re not getting the support they need or they’re not happy with their apprenticeship, the National Apprenticeship Service can point them to useful resources.

Where they are now

They’ve just tested the system with a small, closed group of apprentices.

The aim of that wasn’t necessarily to capture data – it was more about testing how the system works. They use GOV.UK's notify tool to trigger the messages and rely on telecoms companies to deliver the messages – so at the moment they’re testing how this works.

Soon all apprentices will be able to tell the central organisation about their experiences, helping employers improve programmes for everyone.


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