The job market has changed... are apprenticeships the future?

  09 OCTOBER, 2017      INDUSTRY INSIGHTS
Novus employee talking Novus apprentices who are stood in a semi circle

In a job market where you can find opportunities on your Twitter feed and be formally interviewed via Skype, it’s little surprise that attitudes are changing as to how you gain employment.

The routes you take in your career are no longer limited to a few options - avenues like apprenticeship programmes offer more alternatives than ever.

Working alongside universities, modern apprenticeships are making a mockery of the idea that academic progression and hands-on experience are mutually exclusive. Young people can learn on-the-job, whilst studying in an area of particular interest.

Study and work (at the same time)

In a survey conducted by property maintenance and refurbishment company Novus Property Solutions, it was found that the UK is once again emerging as a hotbed for apprenticeships (albeit steadily).

Almost half (47%) of the respondents said they would accept an apprenticeship in their chosen field, given the opportunity.

We spoke to Jane Lowe, Apprenticeships Manager at the University of Derby, to find out more.

“University has been the natural progression for a full-time degree pathway and, so naturally, this is the route that young people are expected to take after college or sixth form,” she commented.

“I think that over the next few years the choices universities will be able to provide for students will mean that, for those who want to follow a full-time degree course it will still be an option, but there will also be an opportunity to study a higher level qualification or a degree, while being employed (higher apprenticeships, for example).”

Partnerships between universities and business apprentice schemes allow young people to learn key skills that make them invaluable to their employer.

In another survey, Novus revealed that 54% of the UK do not think that young people are pressured to go to university and that they are becoming more aware of other available options. It seems that the UK has grown out of the preconception that university is a natural – even assumed – route for young people. 

Apprenticeship standards – learn your own way

The standards put in place for apprenticeship programs are ultra-professional and geared for a wide range of industries. Working with skilled employees, students can gain valuable knowledge that will set them apart in the jobs market.

The quality of learning has helped shift the perception of apprenticeships, bringing about a fresh and progressive attitude. As industries get more inclusive, diverse and open to new ventures, the opportunities for young people have multiplied.

As Learning and Development Manager at BPS World, Marianne Hatcher commented on the benefits BPS has seen as a result of their apprenticeships.

“They are not just about ‘work experience’ - they are a structured learning programme over a course of 2-3 years. Apprenticeships give on-the-job learning, supported by training and education with a nationally recognised qualification to be gained on completion. BPS World has had great success with the Rising Stars programme and has had two apprentices receive nominations for the IRP awards for ‘Recruitment Apprentice of The Year’,” she remarked.

New and exciting industries are now getting involved, and the time where apprenticeships were largely made up of the more traditional, ‘hands-on’ trades is long gone.

James Hammill, director of BPP Professional Apprenticeships spoke on how the standards are changing – for the better:

 “Changes to apprenticeship standards mean it’s not just companies in traditional sectors that are recognising the benefits apprenticeships can bring.

“The new standards mean people can now complete even degree or master’s qualifications through an apprenticeship, offering them a debt-free way to enter the profession of their choice straight after their A-levels, and creating new ways for blue chip firms to hire future professionals.

“For example, the digital and technology degree apprenticeship allows companies to hire driven employees who are committed to breaking in to the digital sector at 18. The apprenticeship then provides them with both the theoretical knowledge and work-based experience they need to succeed.”

It’s not just the apprentices that benefit

Apprenticeships are not just aimed at the progression of apprentices – they’re also a massive help to employers looking to add to their team. 

David Ingram, Managing Director at digital marketing agency Bring Digital, commented on the benefits of hiring apprentices in this fast-paced industry:

“When there isn’t a specific academic route for certain specialties, such as technical SEO, having an apprentice allows us to grow our own talent. Apprentices can learn on the job from others around them, gaining hands-on experience and acquiring knowledge from leaders in the industry, and can then apply it to their own work. 

“The world of digital marketing is incredibly fast-paced, and apprentices are the perfect way to plug the skills gap that we often experience. They bring with them a brand new way of thinking, skills that you may never have had in your business before, a fresh perspective and a whole load of creative energy that you can tap into.

“We’ve also found that retention rates amongst our apprentices are fantastic, so by hiring a young person who is willing to learn and work, you are hiring people who want to build a career rather than stay in a job. They are loyal, dedicated, and motivated; all great things that you want in your people.”

Employing an apprentice makes the hiring process simpler, and also allows you to promote from within and oversee the growth of your apprentice. 

An organisation that has been built by apprentices

Stuart Seddon, Chairman of Novus Property Solutions, explained why the company has built such a strong reputation for bringing apprentices through the ranks. 

He said: "It is vital that firms recognise the value of apprenticeship schemes and their power to enrich people’s lives. Apprentices have been a major focus at Novus for the last 75 years and the success of our scheme is reflected at board level; all but one member of the company’s board of directors were teenagers when they joined the firm, and we all learned our trade through the Novus apprenticeship scheme.

“The experience of being an apprentice is one that gets passed down through families, and we have gained enormous strength from the family connections that can be found in all areas of our company. Nowadays, companies can use social media to communicate with the families and guardians of their apprentices, ensuring young recruits are happy and safe at work.

“Rather than aiming to simply upskill young people as quickly as possible, apprenticeships should help them grow and develop in all areas of their work. Those of us who were apprentices ourselves remember being 16 or 17 years old, working alongside colleagues with 20 or 30 years of experience, and how much we learned from those people - we want to share that learning with future generations.”

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