What Can an Apprenticeship Scheme do for your Organisation?

by WorkplaceLaw on May 13, 2013

There have been many casualties of our economy to date and certainly young people aged 16 to 24, who have been dubbed the “lost generation” of the recession, have been greatly affected. Those leaving school or graduating from university are finding precious few job opportunities on offer.

When I first decided that further education wasn’t for me many years ago my first step was a YTS scheme, or rather the Youth Training Scheme (though I know there were many other variations of what YTS stood for!). I later went back to education but, certainly at the age of 16 and uncertain of what to do for the future, this scheme helped me to learn and understand the world of work and was, in that sense, invaluable.

Over the years such schemes have been eradicated; often seen as merely cheap labour and at times exploitative against young people.  But with the continuing problems of the economy, the Government are once again encouraging apprenticeships across all types of organisations and introduced the National Apprentice Scheme (NAS) last year.

Anyone can apply for an apprentice providing they are over 16 and have the desire to learn and work. No formal qualifications are required which can make it ideal for anyone, particularly for those who may not previously have been clear on their career aspirations or are not looking towards a traditional academic route.

The Government provides financial backing to these initiatives and offer funding to assist small to medium companies to set up such schemes.  Many large companies, such as BT, Costa Coffee and Microsoft, have already established apprenticeships. At a training centre in Milton Keynes, David Cameron recently stated that he wanted apprenticeships to become the ‘new norm’, saying: “the idea that in school everyone who can, either takes that path on to university or takes that path on to an apprenticeship. You should be doing one or the other”. Last year the total number of people starting apprenticeships rose by almost 7% to a record 239,900.

The idea behind an apprentice is relatively simple; they join an organisation with the potential for a long term career, it is a paid position (the minimum as set by the Government) so they (the apprentice) will have the opportunity to earn why they learn with specialist knowledge-based certifications such as the HNC, the HND, foundation degrees, or other professional qualifications like the National Vocational Qualification (NVQ). Often an apprentice can essentially be paid to progress their way through Level 2, Level 3, Level 4, and Level 5 of the NVQ.

In addition, whilst studying, the apprentice is able to learn all about their chosen industry, the reality of the role, the network of their peers and customers and the inside track on the business.  For employers this is very beneficial; rather than wait four years for a graduate who may not have the work experience they need, they can train, mould and produce their next generation of employees with support from the Government.

Apprenticeships can work in any industry but they are certainly often focussed around manufacturing, creative positives and those requiring specialist training.

For the economy, the benefits can be far reaching in helping people, particularly young people, take their first step into the world of work and, as such, enabling job growth, as well as helping those who cannot afford a University education.

David Way, Chief Executive, National Apprenticeship Service, commented:

“Encouraging more people to take up quality apprenticeships is absolutely vital in equipping young people with the skills they need for the future – and the skills that Britain needs to grow.”

But are apprenticeships delivering on these promises?

Doug Richard, entrepreneur, educator and founder of School for Startups, was asked by the Education Secretary, Michael Gove, and the Business Secretary, Vince Cable, to consider the future of apprenticeships in England, and provide an independent review. He said:

“No matter who I speak with, everyone agrees that apprenticeships are a good thing – but only when they are ‘true’ apprenticeships. With the myriad of learning experiences which are currently labeled as apprenticeships, we risk losing sight of the core features of what makes apprenticeships work so my conclusion is that we need to look again at what it means to be an apprentice and what it means to offer an apprenticeship as an employer.

“Apprenticeships need to be high quality training with serious kudos and tangible value both to the apprentice and the employer. I want to hear about an 18-year-old who looked at their options and turned down a place at Oxbridge to take up an apprenticeship if that is the right path for them. And I want to hear that their parents were thrilled.

“We need to make sure that apprenticeships are the success story they deserve to be.”

There is no question that apprenticeships provide great benefit to the employer, the economy and the apprentice themselves but, like anything, and as Doug Richard states, only when done well. For the employer they must be committed to the scheme and be willing to provide training and support to the apprentices’, and it certainly cannot be seen as ‘cheap labour’. The rewards are there for the taking but there is no question that training and development takes time and commitment and companies must consider how and if they can provide this when they are often short on time and resource in this current climate.

Therefore, perhaps organisations should not just ask what apprenticeships can do for us but rather what can we do for apprentices to give a vital lifeline to the next generation.

For further information about apprenticeships please visit:  www.apprenticeships.org.uk

If you would like any assistance with setting up an apprentice scheme with regarding to training and development programmes or have any other HR queries then please do not hesitate to contact Heidi Thompson, HR Consultant at Workplace Law: heidi.thompson@workplacelaw.net

Heidi Thompson
HR Consultant, Workplace Law

Heidi Thompson is an HR Consultant at Workplace Law. With excellent employment law knowledge, she is charged with advising senior and junior managers on all areas of HR and legal issues. She also tutors on CIPD accredited employment law study courses.

Heidi Thompson HR Consultant, Workplace Law Workplace Law is a specialist in employment law and health & safety; an established market leader in the provision of information, training, consultancy and HR support services, we help organisations go beyond compliance in the workplace and build a better future.

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