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Using Design Thinking in Apprenticeship Delivery: A Comprehensive Guide

Design thinking is a human-centred approach to problem-solving, and it has become an essential tool for innovators across different industries. In the context of apprenticeship delivery, design thinking promotes the development of effective and inclusive training programmes that meet the needs of both employers and apprentices. This blog will explore the benefits of using design thinking in apprenticeship delivery and how it can be implemented in practice.

Design thinking has been proven to be an effective tool for addressing complex problems. The approach focuses on understanding user needs and developing solutions that meet those needs. It helps organisations to break down seemingly insurmountable challenges and find innovative solutions while also resulting in better products or services that are more likely to succeed in the marketplace.

Presenting on a whiteboard

Regarding apprenticeship delivery, design thinking can help ensure that programmes are optimally designed best to meet the needs of employees and trainees alike. By involving all stakeholders—including employers, trainers, apprentices, and others—in the process of designing training programmes, it is possible to create courses that truly reflect the aspirations and capabilities of all participants. This can result in improved retention rates, higher engagement levels, and better outcomes for everyone involved.

Another benefit of using design thinking in apprenticeship delivery is that it can help organisations create more equitable programmes. By involving all stakeholders in the process of creating training content, each participant’s voice is heard and taken into account. This helps ensure that each person’s needs are addressed when the programme is being designed, contributing to a more inclusive learning environment. In addition, this type of approach has also been shown to improve collaboration between different groups within an organisation and among external partners such as employers and trainers.

Understanding Design Thinking and Its Relevance

Design thinking is a problem-solving methodology that puts human needs at the centre of the process. This approach, which is used to create solutions for complex problems, is often attributed to the global design and consulting company IDEO. The company's methodology comprises five key stages: empathise, define, ideate, prototype, and test. By focusing on empathy and understanding the user rather than just the problem, designers are able to create more effective and desirable solutions.

Design Thinking Workflow

1. Empathise: This stage involves understanding the user's needs and desires by taking a deep dive into their world. In the context of apprenticeship delivery, it is essential to empathise with the needs of the stakeholders, including employers, trainers, and apprentices. By gathering insights from each participant, designers can create a training programme that is tailored to meet everyone's needs effectively. For example, designers can organise focus groups and conduct interviews and surveys to collect information about their experiences, expectations, and aspirations. Empathising with stakeholders enables designers to develop a training programme built around the unique needs of each participant.

2. Define: In the define stage, designers use the insights gathered during the empathy stage to define the problem areas. This involves identifying the gaps in the current training programmes and understanding the specific needs of each stakeholder. By defining the problem areas, designers can create a clear understanding of the challenge they are trying to overcome. Defining the problem area in apprenticeship delivery is essential since it helps narrow down the design process's focus to key areas where improvements can be made.

3. Ideate: Ideation is the brainstorming stage where designers focus on generating ideas that could solve the problem areas defined in the previous stage. In the context of apprenticeship delivery, designers would focus their ideation process on generating ideas that would improve engagement and retention levels among apprentices. Brainstorming can be done through various methods, including mind maps, sketching, and brainstorming sessions with stakeholders. Designers can create many possible solutions to improve apprenticeship delivery by ideating freely.

4. Prototype: After generating numerous potential solutions, designers can then build a prototype of the best idea. In the context of apprenticeship delivery, designers could create a pilot programme or a smaller version of a training session to test out the proposed solution. By prototyping, designers can evaluate how the solution will work in real-life scenarios and refine the design before final implementation. Prototyping before implementation can help designers identify any flaws and improve the design before final delivery.

5. Test: The final stage involves testing the prototype solution in real-world scenarios. In the context of apprenticeship delivery, designers could test the pilot programme with a small group of apprentices and stakeholders to evaluate its effectiveness. By testing, designers can identify any areas of the design that need improvement and iterate as needed. Testing also provides valuable feedback from stakeholders, which can help improve the design further.

When applied to apprenticeship delivery, the five stages of design thinking promote the creation of effective and inclusive training programmes that meet the needs of both employers and apprentices. By involving all stakeholders in the process, designers can create courses that reflect the aspirations and capabilities of all participants, resulting in improved retention rates, higher engagement levels, and better outcomes for everyone involved.

Implementing Design Thinking

Design thinking can be applied in many stages of the apprenticeship process. For example, it can be used when designing an initial learning plan or curriculum and during the implementation stage when introducing new technologies or tools. Design thinking can also be employed in assessment processes or post-completion activities such as reflection and evaluation.

Not only can design thinking be used during the apprenticeship process but it can also be used to assess an apprenticeship programme's overall performance and success. By defining specific goals, creating pilot programmes, testing out solutions and gathering feedback from stakeholders, designers can evaluate the effectiveness of a given programme. This helps ensure that apprentices receive the best training experience possible and that employers see positive outcomes from their investment in apprenticeships.

To ensure that design thinking is successfully implemented, it is important to consider the following:

• Ensure stakeholders are actively involved throughout the process.

• Utilise user feedback and research to inform decision-making.

• Create a safe environment for brainstorming and collaboration.

• Promote an iterative approach by testing and refining solutions along the way.

• Set achievable goals but be open to exploring new ideas.


Design thinking can be an invaluable tool in apprenticeship delivery, helping organisations create effective and equitable programmes that meet the needs of all stakeholders. By involving everyone in a collaborative process of experimentation and iteration, it is possible to develop training programmes that truly reflect aspirations. and capabilities of apprentices, resulting in higher engagement levels and improved retention rates. With the right resources and support, design thinking can revolutionise apprenticeship delivery.

By following the five stages of Design Thinking, organisations can create effective solutions for apprenticeship delivery which are tailored to the needs of both employers and apprentices. The process involves stakeholder collaboration, user research, ideation, prototyping, testing and refinement – all with the aim of creating a solution that reflects everyone’s aspirations.

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