CTSI is marking National Apprenticeship Week by promoting Regulatory Compliance Officer (RCO) apprenticeships, and has created a hub on its website with further information here.
The theme for National Apprenticeship Week 2022 is ‘build the future’, reflecting on how apprenticeships help individuals develop the skills and knowledge required for a rewarding career, and help businesses build a talented workforce equipped with future-ready skills. This is extremely important for the trading standards profession, which is concerned with its ongoing sustainability and attracting younger and diverse groups into the profession.
The RCO apprenticeship is an approved standard under the apprenticeship framework allowing England-based employers to draw in the apprenticeship levy to fund training and endpoint assessment. A recent evaluation has shown that since its rollout in February 2018, there has been a healthy pipeline of RCO apprenticeships from several organisations.
Richard Strawson, Trading Standards Manager at East Sussex County Council, said: “We have been using the RCO Apprenticeship Scheme since its inception. The application process is thorough, and the associated training providers provide excellent foundational knowledge to apprentices. The apprenticeship scheme is fully-funded through the apprenticeship levy, which makes it an attractive option for Local Authorities needing to train new officers.
“The standards of the apprenticeship is excellent and genuinely equips the modern trading standards professional with the skills and knowledge they need to work effectively in the current regulatory working environment.”
The RCO apprenticeships are popular with job seekers and those looking for a new challenge in their career. Lincolnshire County Council reports that over 250 applications were made for four RCO apprenticeship places. Anna Chapman was selected for an apprenticeship at Lincolnshire and was later appointed an Apprenticeship Ambassador for Lincolnshire County Council alongside her trading standards role. Anna previously worked for 15 years in sales, most recently as a Sales Manager.
Others who have taken on the apprenticeship include former teachers, animal welfare workers and IT professionals. The wide range of backgrounds of apprenticeship graduates is extensive, and their diverse experiences are valued because of the transferable skills they have gained throughout their careers.
Within the RCO, there is a key focus on the regulatory environment in general and not just trading standards. This establishes a holistic mindset towards regulation at the Local Authority level and promotes collaborative working with other local authority departments – an increasingly important requirement.
Jamie Martin, an RCO Apprentice at East Sussex County Council, said, “I worked in Animal Care and Management for seven years before becoming an RCO Apprentice, so this was a big change in my career. The apprenticeship gave me the ability to learn on the job with one day a week dedicated to studying and another day assisting the team. We have a line manager who gives us support within the team, and I’ve undertaken work in food investigations and animal welfare.
“Doing my apprenticeship during the COVID-19 pandemic has been challenging, with most training sessions and meetings held online, but everyone has risen to the challenge, and I cannot recommend the RCO more highly.”
Phil Owen, Service Director Profession Relationships at CTSI, said: “CTSI was very much involved in the development of this apprenticeship which also enabled the standard of the RCO to be aligned with Level 1 of CTSI’s Professional Competency Framework (CPCF). This means that an apprentice who achieves the RCO apprenticeship can apply for an exemption against Level 1 of CPCF. The plan is to do something similar with the proposed Trading Standards Practitioner L6 apprenticeship, for example, to deliver a credit against the higher levels of CPCF.
“Through supporting relevant apprenticeship schemes and highlighting Government initiatives such as the Kickstart scheme and Job Entry Targeted Support Scheme, CTSI encourages local authorities to employ apprentices and new starters from across all communities to ensure the much-needed diversity and sustainability of our profession going forward.”
Jon Buttolph, Associate Director of Membership and Professional Development at CIEH, said: “We are keen to support apprenticeships and recognise the RCO and proposed L6 apprenticeship as a key initiative in sustaining the next generation of public sector regulators and promoting inclusivity. This is one of several priority areas for joint working between CIEH, CTSI and other stakeholders.”
Last year the UK Government deprioritised a separate £14m apprenticeship scheme that could have created 4,500 apprenticeships for trading standards and environmental health professionals. Still, CTSI is speaking with the UK Government about getting the scheme back up off the ground.