From education to employment

Apprenticeships: making the case to employers

The UCAS application deadline passed in January and already we know that applications are up by 5% on last year’s figures. Although the rate of applications has slowed compared to the earlier indications in December, the increase from 2010 could still leave many keen and enthusiastic students without a place in higher education – increasing youth unemployment figures further.

Many will point to the imminent rise in tuition fees as a factor for applicants seeking to gain a place this year. And, with concerns about unemployment and a highly competitive job market facing students anxious young people are thinking about their education and future career options more closely than ever before.

Yet, alongside the growth in demand for HE places figures released from the National Apprenticeship Service show a resurgence in Apprenticeships with a record 279,700 starting their careers last year.

Those working, as we do, in partnership with organisations like the National Apprenticeship Service know the key role that colleges, learning providers and education professionals have played in hitting these figures. But, are employers doing enough to respond to these trends by offering vocational routes into work? Are employers truly aware of the benefits of embracing Apprenticeships? Can we all work together to demonstrate more fully the benefits for young people and the employers who recruit them?

Many employers I speak to are yet to fully appreciate the benefits Apprentices can bring to their business. Although we are in challenging times, businesses are still recruiting staff and Apprenticeships can provide a cost-effective way of training new recruits to meet the needs of any organisation. Time and time again, I speak to employers who are blown away by the enthusiasm, dedication and willingness to achieve of the Kaplan Apprentices they employ. I’m sure this is a sentiment that’s mirrored by thousands of employers across the UK, many of whom will be shouting about it during Apprenticeship Week 2011 (7th February to 11th February).

Apprentices, like any new starters, do require a tailored training programme to get them up to speed with the particular procedures and set up of each workplace. However, it soon becomes very apparent to their employers, that Apprentices are enthusiastic and loyal staff, who are dedicated to achieving good results and high standards. They make a real difference to the organisations that employ them.

The reason for this success is the way Apprenticeships are put together, combining theory and work experience, tailored to a particular candidate and company. Recent research by the National Apprenticeship Service (conducted by Populus) showed that employing Apprentices is good for business, with 81 per cent of employers agreeing that Apprentices make their workplace more productive and 82 per cent believing that Apprentices provide the skilled workers we need for the future. In addition, apprentices bring softer attributes such as innovation, creativity and fresh ideas.

Many businesses take on graduates as a matter of course, but research from recruitment specialists High Fliers earlier this year showed that unless graduates spend time on work experience placements during their studies, they have little or no chance of landing a job with leading recruiters. Apprenticeships provide candidates with the work-ready skills that employers are calling for and after three years, a candidate who has completed an Apprenticeship will not only have a qualification, but the on the job experience too.
Apprenticeships will not replace degrees, and Apprentices will never replace graduates, but there is room for both in many workplaces up and down the country. It’s important that we, as training providers, work alongside colleges and other learning providers to help employers understand the value of each.

Indeed with Apprenticeships available in everything from Customer Service to Business Administration at Kaplan we’re calling on businesses across every sector, and of every size, to get onboard with Apprenticeships in 2001. Not only will employers reap the business benefits of working with Apprentices, but they will also support our young people and our economy through one of the most challenging times we have yet faced.

Kaplan is one of the world’s leading providers of lifelong education and training.  Programmes include Apprenticeships, vocational training, training for professional qualifications, online learning and degree programmes.

James Hammill is head of Apprenticeships at training and vocational training provider Kaplan

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