This week is National Apprenticeship week and as an employer who both enjoys and is committed to training, we thought we would explain what apprenticeships are, take a look at them as an alternative to a degree, explain how we recruit and select apprentices and why we use the apprenticeship scheme.
Apprenticeships, to do or not do to, is that the question?
Ok, so let’s put this into some perspective. Traditionally, apprenticeship positions were for school leavers, tended to be very ‘trade based’, took a long time, were poorly paid and weren’t necessarily a nationally recognised qualification.
As Bob Dylan sang ‘The times they are a changing’. Well, they have changed and this is most definitely true of modern apprenticeships.
No longer are they predominantly for school leavers. They no longer focus on being trade based, they don’t necessarily take multiple years (although there are still positions that do), no longer are they necessarily poorly paid and in the most part they will lead to a nationally recognised qualification (from NVQ level 2 through to Degree level).
You can apply for an apprenticeship from the age of 16 to the age of 80. In the most popular age groups this means:
Age 16-18 – apprenticeships are an alternative to A-Levels and will always carry a recognised qualification on successful completion.
Age 18 (post A-Levels) – apprenticeships are a great way of on-the-job learning and a useful way to start a career. Again, they mostly come with a recognised qualification.
Age 18-80 - apprenticeships can be useful for people wishing to change career, need a way to get started with an employer and have the structure of learning leading to a recognised qualification.
Apprenticeships are open to all age groups but are still predominantly occupied by the 16-18 and 18 year old demographic. Those that have finished their school education and are looking to gain relevant work experience to jumpstart their careers.
Whilst on your apprenticeship, you will be paid, be entitled to holiday and an employment contract, as well as having 20% of your working week dedicated exclusively for the apprenticeship.
Should I do a degree?
That is really up to you! However, degrees are usually rather expensive with the University charging up to £9,250 per year in England, plus you will need to factor in Rent, Food and Fun. Unless you are in the fortunate position of being funded by your family, you will be able to get Student Loans to help fund your studies.
If working to self-fund and topping up with student loans is your route, you should be aware that the average debt that a UK student leaves University with is £40,280. That is quite some baggage to start your career with.
There are professions where it is almost exclusively necessary to gain a degree (medicine, law etc.) but unless your intended career path necessitates a degree, apprenticeships are most definitely a valid option and don’t come with the huge cost due to the Government and the Employer funding the cost of the course.
How do we recruit apprentices?
Once we have decided what area we can offer an apprentice in, we advertise the position on our website and contact training providers, who are normally one of the first points of contact for students or adults wishing to take on an apprenticeship.
We then try and interview as many candidates as possible (usually by phone as stage 1) and then move onto face-to-face interviews (pandemic permitting…) with a short list of 3-5.
Selection is normally done after the face-to-face interviews. It can be tough telling someone that they haven’t been successful but wherever possible we give feedback to the candidate as to why they didn’t succeed. To us, it is essential that candidate confidence is maintained or improved wherever possible even if they didn’t ‘get the job’.
Why we use and back the apprenticeship scheme
The apprentice scheme is an excellent solution to investing in new talent that we can directly train without the career bias that can be associated with an experienced employee. There is also a degree of affordability in recruiting an apprentice, but we try to be very fair in our salary setting and during the apprenticeship review salaries regularly.
We also treat apprentices the same way we treat anyone in our team. They are an important part of our team, valued as highly as anyone else. Everyone in our business will be involved at some stage in training, teaching, and helping the apprentice understand not just their topic, but also the wider gamut of skills and experience that are required to successfully understand and run ‘our business’ effectively and efficiently.
But the real point for us is that we can help an apprentice get real world, at the coalface skills and experience with our business so that once the apprenticeship is successfully complete, we can go on to employ them and they get cracking in their chosen career with us.
We have never hired an apprentice for ‘cheap labour’ and any potential apprentice should be wary of this possibility from an employer. There is however usually a higher quantity of the more mundane tasks to be undertaken in an apprenticeship, but these are usually required by the business and are in themselves essential learning opportunities.
We constantly strive to ensure that the apprentice is being effective, has direction in their learning (from us and the training provider), is being kept interested in their topic and challenged to keep discovering new learning channels. Where necessary we also invest in third party courses to top-up the learning experience.
We see apprenticeships as an invaluable recruitment tool and will continue to seek new talent through the scheme.
We will be looking for our next apprentice in the next few months. If you would like to be kept updated of any future apprenticeship vacancies at BarkWeb, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.