To kickstart National Apprenticeship Week (NAW) 2023 I was lucky enough to be invited to an event with the NELEP to discuss how business leaders can encourage more organisations to support apprenticeship schemes.
There have been multiple pieces of research done on the government apprenticeship scheme and whilst some of the feedback is negative (a decline in sign-ups, higher youth unemployment, etc.), I am much more glass half full. The one statistic that stood out for me today was “of those students who finished their scheme, as many as 85% will stay in employment, with two-thirds (64%) remaining with the same employer”. Its’ also suggested that many of these go on to complete higher level qualifications.
In a climate of global uncertainty and higher cost of living, surely this is an avenue we should be harvesting?
So, what is an apprenticeship:
An apprenticeship gives you hands-on experience, a salary, and the opportunity to train while you work as an apprentice. As an apprentice you’ll:
- learn and train for a specific job
- get paid and receive holiday leave
- get hands-on experience in a real job
- study for at least 20% of your working hours – usually at a college, university or with a training provider
- complete assessments during and at the end of your apprenticeship
- be on a career path with lots of future potential
Levels of an apprenticeship
- Each apprenticeship has a level and an equivalent education level. You can start an apprenticeship at any level.
- Depending on the level, some apprenticeships may:
- require previous qualifications such as an English or maths GCSE
- give extra training in the English or maths skills needed so you’re at the right level
- At the end of your apprenticeship, you’ll achieve the equivalent education level. For example, if you complete a level 3 apprenticeship, you’ll achieve the equivalent of an A level.
- Equivalent education level:
- Intermediate Level 2 – equivalent to GCSE
- Advanced level 3 – equivalent to 3 A level
- Higher 4,5,6 and 7 – equivalent to a Foundation degree and above
- Degree 6 and 7 – equivalent to a Bachelor’s or master’s degree
For more information visit: Becoming an apprentice (apprenticeships.gov.uk)
Today’s conversations made me reflect on my own career journey which is when it dawned on me that it is 30 years this summer since I left school and the decision I had to make regarding my future. Once the mid-life crisis of realising how old I am subsided, the question left, was if I had to live this all over again, would I make the same decision – to take an apprenticeship journey rather than university.
The answer is very a very loud and proud yes. I am part of that 85%.
At 16, I really struggled with the decision between university and a youth trainee scheme (ye olde apprenticeship) and the benefits or consequences of both. I failed maths but excelled in English and Business Studies so that shaped some of the options available. The final swing was more personal, I wasn’t ready to leave home. So, I chose the “apprenticeship” route – research suggested I would have a higher chance of full-time employment. During the first few years I balanced NVQ Business Studies qualifications alongside work placements and night school at the local college. My first placement was with a local council and tasks included collecting documents from various departments to data entry and filing. I was then lucky enough to find a placement with a local packaging company as an administrator and began my career in manufacturing. Here I worked across many departments before accidently landing in Personnel and finding my niche.
I did get to university as a part time mature student funded by my employer. The programme was much easier to interpret compared to some of my fellow students – because I had the work experience. I had seen the principles in practice and could apply my new skills in the workplace. This benefited me in gaining confidence, knowledge, skills and behaviours; and the organisation gained a more structured and professional Personnel Department.
I have also gone onto to do further apprenticeships in L&D over recent years so have lived the new era of frameworks.
Within L&D and HR communities we talk about learning styles (VARK, etc,). My personal view is the university routes suits those who prefer to learn from reading and researching, and the apprenticeship route suits those who like to be hands on and learn from visuals. Neither is the wrong option; it is a personal choice of how you will learn best and what you feel is the best route for your chosen career, at that stage in your life.
As employers, apprentices are the next generation that will take your organisation forward. They’ve worked from the bottom up and understand your values and principles. They’ve not got the years of experience and maturity we have so we need to be patient and guide them.
It is worth noting that today’s generation are looking for more than just a job and organisations need to consider how best to attract and retain apprentices. We need to think about wellbeing initiatives, mental health support, flexible and hybrid working opportunities, sustainability initiatives etc. All of these have been further highlighted as possibilities and aspirations during the pandemic.
I’ve relished helping learners achieve promotion they did not think was possible. All it took was someone to give them a chance, to take them to one side when things were not going well, to listen to their fears, to guide them towards useful experiences and research, and help them practice for their assessments. “Being creative” is probably my most used saying – listen to a podcast, attend a meeting, take the minutes, live (anonymous) case studies help embed learning into real life practices. My biggest piece of advice for an apprentice is to be curious – ask the question!
I will end this blog with a huge thank you to my family, friends, mentors and peers. I would not be the person, manager or mentor I am today without the opportunity and support you have shown. We have laughed, cried, stressed, coped and grown together. Thank you all.