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The Value of Apprenticeships

Simon Reichwald, Strategic Lead for Emerging Talent at MyKindaFuture

Simon Reichwald, Strategic Lead for Talent at MyKindaFuture, the leading overlooked talent specialist, outlines his thoughts on why apprenticeships need to be seen in a new light and respected as credible options for students to consider post-school.

Although apprenticeships are starting to be better understood as the force for good that they are, with 742,000 people in England having participated in an apprenticeship scheme last year1, there is still work to be done to repair the apprenticeship brand.

Apprenticeships are often seen as being inferior to more conventional educational paths, and only relevant for blue-collar trades and low paid sectors. These are deep-rooted misconceptions that are simply not true. In fact, the sectors offering the largest number of apprenticeships in the UK last year were business administration and law, with almost a third of all new apprentices working across these industries2.

It is important that we work with schools and colleges, employers and the government, to better communicate the value of apprenticeships. Here, I’ll set out the benefits apprenticeships offer, both for apprentices and businesses.

Offer Students Choice

For students who have been through GCSEs and then A-Levels, it can feel as though they are on an educational conveyor belt – next stop, university degree. However, while this traditional educational route works well for many, that doesn’t mean it’s the only path worth considering for students.

When it comes to education, one size does not fit all. Churning students out in a conveyor belt style can harm those less suited to the world of academia; those that are more practically minded, for instance.

By only offering young people a rigid path that relies heavily on exam success, a large number of students who don’t naturally excel in academia are being set up to fail. For this reason, it is crucial that students are shown what options exist outside of the traditional academic route that are still credible to employers, such as apprenticeships.

Encourage Individuality and Entrepreneurism

A rigid approach to education also risks stifling entrepreneurism and creativity. All the fastest growing companies in the world are those that disrupt, not conform. Education providers must support individual and disruptive thinking and nurture this type of talent, and this starts by changing the mindset that conventional educational paths are the only route to success.

Prepare Young People for The World of Work

There continues to be a debate about the purpose of education, is it to teach students about the subjects themselves or to prepare them for the world of work? Whatever your views, it’s undeniable that, eventually, the majority of people will leave education and go out into the world of work.

Unlike students at university, apprentices are provided with real-life work experience while working towards a qualification, something that is invaluable to employers. Apprentices qualify equipped with a host of industry knowledge and experiences, enabling them to hit the ground running at work. This is particularly valuable for young people that have their eyes set firmly on the world of work in a specific sector.

The importance of real-life work experience over academic attainment is also demonstrated by the fact that even 22% of graduate recruiters now have no minimum academic criteria for applications.

Expand Horizons

Contrary to misconceptions, apprenticeships can help young people get ahead in careers across a variety of industries, many of which are not traditionally associated with this route. Right now, for instance, apprenticeships are booming in cybersecurity and digital marketing, where earning potential is massive.

Benefit Businesses’ Bottom Line

In addition to offering a vital pathway into the world of work for young people, apprentices can also help organisations achieve their strategic goals. Apprenticeship schemes are particularly good for getting the best and brightest young talent into the workforce, which is vital for succession planning. It is great to see that while workforce planning, more and more employers are starting to turn to apprentices to provide the skills that they need in the present, as well as five to ten years down the line.

Organisations are also increasingly recognising the value of using high-level apprenticeship schemes to upskill their existing staff. In fact, 44% of apprenticeships started in 2018/19 were at an advanced level3. This is a great way for employers to invest in their people and retain their services, and demonstrates the valuable role apprenticeships can play in developing staff at all stages of their career, as well as those entering the world of work for the first time.  

Conclusion

Although huge progress has been made to improve the apprenticeship brand over the last few years, organisations still receive half the number of apprenticeship applications compared to graduate applications. This suggests that there is still work to be done to challenge the assumption that conventional educational paths are superior to alternatives.

At MyKindaFuture, we’re passionate about raising the profile of apprenticeships, and celebrate government initiatives such as the Apprenticeship Levy and National Apprenticeship Week, which are designed to raise awareness of apprenticeships, and inform students, employers and educators on the huge value they can offer.

We strongly believe that as long as we continue to work together to address challenges in perception and celebrate the benefits they provide to businesses and to the employability of individuals, we will continue to see the number of apprenticeship opportunities and the number of people attracted to them increasing.

Simon Reichwald, Strategic Lead for Emerging Talent at MyKindaFuture

References 

1 Apprenticeship Statistics Briefing Paper, House of Commons

2 Apprenticeship Statistics Briefing Paper, House of Commons

3 Apprenticeship Statistics Briefing Paper, House of Commons

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