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National Apprenticeship Week 2024 - By Heather Duffield

This week we celebrate all things apprenticeships.  A chance to put them under the spotlight, and to educate as many people as possible about the benefits of completing one.  This education should be aimed at not only the young people who are starting out in their career, but to people of any age looking to gain a recognised qualification, people looking for a change in career, parents, and, just as importantly, EMPLOYERS.



Blog from Heather Duffield
Heather Duffield

In the last blog I wrote for NAW 2023, I covered points which were helpful to parents and learners. Things like the misconception that apprentices worked all the hours under the sun, swept floors, made tea, were sent to fetch tartan paint… the list goes on!  But the reality is, an apprenticeship is, in my opinion, THE BEST way of continuing your education to gain those qualifications, but instead of sitting in a classroom, you get to learn ON THE JOB.


How much more beneficial is that? 

You get to study for 20% of your week, whilst learning valuable, relevant skills, by actually doing the job in your chosen sector!  And I can tell you that having worked in Recruitment in some shape or form for the past 20 years, seeing a young person who has all this experience, the right qualifications, has taken on all this responsibility and is ‘work ready’, it can really make a difference.


In this article, I’d like to share my knowledge and experience with all the employers out there.  Whether you have thought about hiring an apprentice, or whether you are set against it.  You might be wary, you might be worried about having to do things differently, or you just might not have enough information to make a decision on whether to hire one… whatever your stance, this one is for you.

 

Let’s start with some stats and benefits:

·       86% of employers said that apprentices helped them develop skills relevant to their organisation

·       78% of employers said apprentices helped them improve productivity

·       74% of employers said apprentices helped them improve the quality of their product or service

 

So, what is an apprentice?

An apprentice is an employee, and must receive the same benefits as all other full time members of staff.  They are someone who may not have experience in your industry, or even in the environment they will be working in. They may be straight out of school or college, or they could be looking for a career change. 


It is SO important to remember, that as an apprentice, they will LEARN the skills and GAIN experience and knowledge relevant to the job role throughout their apprenticeship. They will not already have this.An apprentice may have transferrable skills that they have gained through out their education, such as: Teamwork, good timekeeping, hardworking, working under pressure, IT Skills, good communication skills, organisation skills, reliability, etc..


It is unrealistic to advertise for an apprentice and have expectations for them to come with experience.  If they had bags of experience, they wouldn’t be applying for an apprenticeship, and if they are 16-18, and have been in education, where will they have had this experience from?  Your apprentice may be brand new to the world of work, and brand new to your industry and sector, BUT they will come with bags of enthusiasm, a desire to learn, and the motivation to gain all the skills required with YOUR guidance and support.


Some employers may also see hiring an apprentice as an opportunity to hire staff for a lower salary to save money.  Again, this is not what an apprenticeship is.  By hiring an apprentice, you are committing yourself to supporting this person to learn in the workplace, and encouraging them to complete their studies whilst providing them invaluable work experience and development opportunities.


If you are interviewing a potential apprentice, the right person may not be the person with the most work experience, it might be the person with the right attitude, someone who can demonstrate their desire to learn new skills and their interest in the sector they have applied to. 


Training Providers

If you want to get the best out of your apprentice, it is important that you choose your training provider wisely.  The training provider is responsible for the 20% off the job training.  They do not have to be based near you, as many of them are national, and offer the training at your workplace and online.  You want to make sure that you are working with someone who has great reviews and feedback from both apprentices and employers, and it is also a good idea to look at their Ofsted report.


The best place to search for your training provider is:  https://www.instituteforapprenticeships.org/

On this website, you’d click on “Apprenticeship Search” and type in the apprenticeship standard you want your apprentice to complete, for example, HR Support.  On the right it will say “find providers that deliver this standard”, so click on there and it will take you to a new page.  It will bring up all the providers that deliver it.  Click on the left to filter for 4 star excellent employer and learner feedback and it narrows down to just those providers (4 star is the highest). Make sure you click “apply filters”. Then just click on the provider you want to see, and you’ll see the 4 stars and you can click on apprentice and employer feedback.

 

So, what are you waiting for?  A whole new workforce is currently gearing up to take their GCSES.  That means that in a few, short months, a WHOLE NEW WORKFORCE will be ready and raring to start the next chapter of their life.  Their GCSE’s or A Levels/BTECs etc.. are now behind them, and they are excited to get into the workplace to gain some experience, and continue their learning whilst completing a qualification. 


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