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Eyes on the prize: The changing tide of Apprenticeships


Back in the day, leaving school, joining a company and learning on the job was part and parcel of becoming an adult. Back then, any form of further education was solely reserved for the high fliers of the classroom. However, as time went on, University become very much the ‘norm’, with thousands of young people choosing to bridge the gap between home and independent living with a move to another town or city whilst earning a degree to set them up for their future. A rite -of passage to adult-hood, flying the nest without going to university became considered as more of an anomaly than the alternative.

Another generation down the line and it looks like things may be changing again. Investment by the government into the promotion of Apprenticeship initiatives combined with post Brexit economic worries and increasing university fees and one can’t help but wonder if Apprenticeships are making a come-back as the more attractive career path option?

A staple within the strategy of many of the world’s most forward thinking organisations, Apprenticeship programmes are a clear and logical way to cultivate skills and talent in-line with the requirements of the job. Whilst university students spend three years learning the theoretical, apprentices are doing the job, learning and gaining hands-on experience of the role and the company. So when it comes to recruitment, the choice between an in-experienced graduate and an already bedded-in and experienced apprentice, the decision is often not too difficult.

Heading up an apprenticeship training programme in Staffordshire Tracey Marson-Holland, Director at Martec Training and Education, has been working with industry leaders and young people for the past 15 years. Seeing first-hand the positive impact that apprenticeship initiatives have both for the supporting organisation and the person taking on the apprenticeship, Tracey believes that apprenticeships cannot fail to offer a strong and valid route to employment:

“Professional experience is a valuable asset to any person looking to gain entry into a specific sector. Offering an array of distinct advantages, the skills, experience and confidence gained through an apprenticeship scheme ultimately provides a key tool when it comes to getting your foot through the door.”

Exposed to the business community that they want to make their career in, Apprentices have the opportunity to forge relationships with key professionals, building a network that will help them in their learning and potential employment opportunities.

“An Apprentice also has the opportunity to witness the inner workings of an organisation, enabling them to understand the culture and its unique working practices – knowledge that could prove pivotal in an interview situation. Learning through practical experience an Apprentice has the space and the support to make mistakes and learn from them – a factor that may not be tolerated in any other circumstance – enabling them to improve and build their expertise in their chosen area.” Continues Tracey.

Unlike many students working to obtain the skills needed to enter a specific industry sector, apprentices get paid. A minimum wage, set by the government, is available to anyone participating in an apprenticeship scheme. Swapping the debt of university for three years of solid earnings, the chose to get paid whilst you train is a tempting one for growing numbers of young people.

Enabling young people to leave education and get straight onto the career ladder, Apprenticeships offer a way to advance quicker in a career. A feasible alternative to university, it has been found that apprenticeships often offer more employment security. A study facilitated by The Sutton Trust found that 90% of apprentices stay in employment, with seven in 10 staying with the same employer.

Apprentices can also end up earning more than some graduates. The Sutton Trust found that people who had completed level five apprenticeships were expected to earn £52,000 more over their lifetimes than graduates from non-elite universities.

Tracey concludes: “From what I have seen and experienced with the hundreds of young people that we have worked with since we began Martec in 1982, enhances my belief that choosing the apprenticeship route is the way forward. Once seen as a secondary option when compared to further education, apprenticeship schemes are coming into their own and many savvy youngsters out there are realising for themselves that the best way into a career that they want is through hands-on learning from the ground up.”

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