Liam Sammon, Director of Learning and Innovation of JTL, the leading work-based learning provider in England and Wales, explains why he believes that an apprenticeship opens the doors to a fulfilling and rewarding career.
A debate that has been going on for many years is that of ‘education over experience’, and that discussion is as relevant today as it has ever been.
Whilst many school leavers will continue their education by going on to study at university, it’s not for everyone. Of course, for those wanting to enter professions such as law and accountancy, or become a doctor or a dentist, the only route to achieving this is via a degree.
However, the university route can have its drawbacks, and many are wary of the level of student debt that they may accrue along the way – not wanting to carry the burden of paying it back over many years.
An apprenticeship provides an excellent alternative to a university education, bringing with it a skillset that can last a lifetime and provide a good level of job security – something that has become more difficult to find in recent years.
Increasing the visibility of apprenticeships within schools remains high on the agenda, and this can only be achieved by ensuring that all students have access to the right information, advice and guidance throughout key stages of their journey, starting as early as Year 9 when they are just beginning to choose their GCSE subjects.
Within the UK there is a shortage of skills available across many sectors and trades including electricians, gas engineers and building services engineers to name but a few. Therefore, with these sectors desperate for more entrants, apprenticeships are going to play an increasingly vital part in the development of new talent to fulfil these roles.
When you look at the need for new housing in this country, and some of the green energy initiatives that the government is undertaking, it is clear that many new jobs will be created within the construction industry. For example, the government has set a target of building 300,000 new homes a year by 2025 and has an ambitious plan to install many thousands of heat pumps into existing homes over the next few years. These initiatives, together with the target of meeting net zero by 2050, means that thousands of new apprentices will be needed over the coming years to meet the resulting demand for their services and skills.
Therefore, having a trade is going to be increasingly important and vital to the wellbeing of the UK economy. An apprenticeship provides a solid foundation for a young person, enabling them to develop the necessary skills to realise their full potential. Training for 16 – 18 year-olds is fully government-funded, and so it costs nothing to any prospective employer, meanwhile if the learner is over 19, the employer may be required to pay up to 5% of the total cost over the duration of the apprenticeship.
An apprenticeship helps to provide a solution to the ‘education over experience’ debate, because it allows you to do both. Not only do you gain valuable first-hand experience in a working environment whilst training for industry recognised qualifications, but you also get paid along the way.
Here at JTL, apprenticeships also provide a particular selection of benefits beyond the programme itself, from dedicated training officers for each learner to free toolkits and study books, it’s not just about completing a course, it’s about equipping apprentices with what they actually need to work.
An apprenticeship is ideally suited to those who are more practically minded or wish to start working and earn a reliable wage. Apprenticeships are undoubtedly becoming an increasingly popular career route and learners who have completed their course can get ahead of university graduates because they have gained vital on-the-job experience.
For many years, apprenticeships have been considered only for school leavers or young people entering the workplace. However, this is a myth – they are available to all ages. Since the introduction of adult apprenticeships, more and more mature learners are opting to take this route, rather than going back into full-time education.
Regardless of direct contrasts and comparisons, the benefits of an apprenticeship will always be clearest for the individual that seeks them out. Apprenticeships provide a tailored experience that equips learners with a framework of knowledge as well as the practical skills to implement those learnings. It’s a unique opportunity to be able to take part in a support system that you can also contribute towards, and that’s something we’re looking forward to the next generation discovering.
Liam Sammon, Director of Learning and Innovation of JTL