Mark Tant, Managing Director at Wates Construction

#LookBeyond - From Apprentice to Managing Director… Construction Boss Dispels Myths Around Apprentices for #NAW2020 

#NationalApprenticeshipWeek is making a comeback this week (3-7 Feb), and with it, a chance for industry leaders to celebrate the impact apprenticeships have on the economy, employers and of course, individuals.

Over the past few years, the further education training scheme has opened up to a huge variety of sectors, but despite multiple employers reporting a record number of take-ups last year, there still remains a stigma associated with construction apprenticeships.

Dispelling 5 preconceptions surrounding apprenticeships

1. ‘Hands-on apprenticeships are mainly for male applicants’

While there might be an assumption ‘hands-on’ apprenticeships are the preserve of male school-leavers, according to Government data, there were in fact more females signing up to the scheme in 2017/18 than their male counterparts!

While wider gender diversity in construction is something those in the industry are working hard to address, the number of female apprentices entering the industry will be an excellent way to help redress the balance in the future.

 2. ‘They’re only useful for people wanting to work manual jobs’

While this assumption might have been true when I entered the industry, these days, you can apply for a huge number of roles across dozens of sectors, with higher and degree-level apprenticeships also increasingly popular options. 

It’s not just for traditional trades in the construction industry; there are now huge opportunities across the likes of accounting and finance, marketing, project management or even design. Employers often favour these candidates over those with no experience and degrees as they have hugely transferable and tangible skills which can be applied in the workplace from the offset.

3. ‘Apprenticeships are better for people who didn’t get the best grades at school’

This assumption is completely out of date. Apprenticeships are for everyone, regardless of grades, as it provides on the job training for those from all walks of life. With rising student fees and debt, more and more young people are seeing the value of vocational qualifications, with apprenticeships becoming an incredibly appealing option.

They are a great way to learn as you earn whilst getting your foot in the door with an employer which can help to avoid the dreaded search for grad jobs.

4. ‘They aren’t for people from my background’

Apprenticeships are an incredibly accessible way of upskilling the country’s workforce and enabling social mobility, regardless of the applicant’s circumstances.

Those from deprived backgrounds are just as likely to apply as their less deprived counterparts, whereas there remains a huge gap between these groups when it comes to university applications.

5. ‘You don’t expect to earn much on or after an apprenticeship’

Those on the scheme are guaranteed a stable income through the Government’s minimum wage, however in some circumstances, employers will pay more. Apprentices are also paid for the time studying as well as the hours they work, and according to the National apprenticeship Service’s data, they can expect to earn £150k more over their lifetime compared with those on level 3 vocational training.

If you join an apprenticeship straight out of school, you’ll be free of debt and have four to five years of employment experience under your belt – which is, in my eyes, a significant advantage over university graduates.

From the Classroom to the Boardroom

Having worked my way to the top of one of the UK’s largest construction giants from a trainee background, I want to highlight just how positive apprenticeships can be and dispel some of these myths.

I started on a training scheme with a Tier one Contractor, fresh out of school at 17. It was an excellent way to get on-the job training to really sink my teeth into the industry.

While apprenticeships have certainly moved on a great deal in the decades since, there still remains some damaging misconceptions from this time which not only impacts on applicants’ perceptions, but also on the wider workforce and economy.

In reality, they are an excellent way for people to look beyond traditional routes into employment; giving applicants the option to carve out career paths which they’re motivated and excited by.

Currently, we have over a hundred talented trainees and apprentices on our programmes, and with rotational development, they have the opportunity to learn about a variety of disciplines, whether that’s in construction, development or property services.

Mark Tant, Managing Director at Wates Construction

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