Angela Middleton, Chairman and Founder of MiddletonMurray and Stephen Middleton, CEO of Elite Apprenticeships

Angela Middleton reflects on National Apprenticeship Week and the future of the apprenticeships in the UK and USA

This week sees the 11th annual National Apprenticeships Week and it’s a time to take stock and celebrate.

Last year saw the launch of our subsidiary company, Elite Apprenticeships, in San Francisco, which takes our unique training and consultancy across the pond. I’m using #NAW2018 to reflect on what the US can learn from the UK employment landscape.

A true “across-the-pond” initiative – same challenges, different market maturity

There’s a positive education about apprenticeships to be had on either side of the Atlantic.

The UK is years ahead in apprenticeship market maturity, but in both countries there’s still a widespread lack of understanding about what an apprenticeship is, how it can apply to a broad spectrum of industries and employment opportunities, and ultimately, how it can be successfully implemented.

Both countries have committed to the development and delivery of huge schemes by 2020.

In the UK, we are working alongside the government in its pledge to create three million apprenticeships through the Apprenticeship Levy and in the US, Elite Apprenticeships was set up to support the US government’s mission to deliver five million apprenticeship roles.

The bigger picture: productivity

Apprenticeships are the key to unlocking any country’s productivity puzzle. They are high on our government’s agenda for this very reason: a productive country is a prosperous country. The UK is currently third from the bottom in the G7 and this is a cause for concern, as it’s distinctly lagging the USA.

Both countries are experiencing sluggish growth compared to Germany, a country with a highly successful and well-funded national apprenticeship scheme, which we look to for example.

If you consider the main factors affecting low productivity, lack of required skills and talent (particularly digital) are at the top of the list. Apprenticeships are about nurturing and enhancing unique skills for every business and creating the next generation of empowered and capable employees.

An education in Silicon Valley

There’s no time like the present to be blazing the trail for apprenticeships in the US.

San Francisco is world-renowned for being a tech hub – it is the home of Twitter, after all – and is a place inventing the jobs of the future, so there’s a serious need for raw talent to support this hive of activity.

Commenting on the US apprenticeships landscape, Stephen Middleton, CEO of Elite Apprenticeships says:

the biggest task we have is educating people around what an apprenticeship is. So many people say, isn’t that an internship?”

This is reminiscent of the UK in 2011, and on a recent visit to San Francisco I was struck by the assumption that employees require a University (College) degree to be considered for any “white collar” role.

Raw talent can be nurtured and successfully harnessed at any age or education level. In fact, hiring a candidate without a degree works for many employers as they can hire at a lower cost and support the growth of the apprentices’ skills on the job.

Another misconception we’ve seen in the US comes from the manual and trade legacy of the apprenticeship model – in both the UK and the US, there’s a commonly held belief that apprenticeships solely apply to trades rather than office-based career paths.

In San Francisco, Stephen is helping companies understand that the model can be easily and successfully transferred to an office-based role.

Thankfully, the CEO of one the biggest technology companies in San Francisco, Marc Benioff of SalesForce, has spoken out about the importance of creating these five million jobs by 2020.

That’s had a huge impact on Silicon Valley’s approach to the jobs market.

The next generation of talent

Across the pond, employers are struggling to access talent just as we are.

This may be because the people they are trying to attract aren’t aware of the job opportunities, perhaps don’t consider themselves appropriate candidates, or because the job role is advertised in terms candidates don’t understand.

Apprenticeships bridge that vital gap by providing young people with essential skills and on-the-job training that’s accessible. From start-ups to multinationals, companies of all sizes don’t necessarily know what skills they’ll be hiring for in a year’s time. The best choice is to nurture talent from within, defining exactly what they need as the course progresses.

The future

In the USA, Elite Apprenticeships is set to implement apprenticeships that support the burgeoning tech employment opportunities.

There is much more to be done to regulate and standardise the delivery of apprenticeships in America. We see San Francisco as the first step and will work to roll our commercial programme out in wider states – and perhaps nationwide – to support the productivity boost, and creation of new jobs needed.

In the UK, funding is well established but this infrastructure has yet to be formalised in the USA. In both markets we need to educate employers on the opportunities apprenticeships afford and support the delivery and funding of apprenticeship schemes.

They are the key to unlocking productivity on both sides of the pond – and real progress is being made.

Angela Middleton, Chairman and Founder of MiddletonMurray

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