Jaine Bolton: busting apprenticeship myths

Jaine Bolton: busting apprenticeship myths

01 February 2013 / Be the first to comment

Chief Operating Officer at the National Apprenticeship Service Jaine Bolton sets out to dispel some of the myths around apprenticeship opportunities and improve understanding of today’s apprentice programme

Ten to 15 years ago there was a big drive to improve the number of people that went on to higher education and university and to make it more accessible. As a parent, when your child leaves compulsory education your main priority is to make sure they get the absolute best opportunities out there, and often there’s a presumption that this has to mean university. University is a great experience and is right for many people, but people are finally realising that apprenticeships are a viable and compelling alternative. Now employers stand up and promote their apprenticeship programmes by telling others about their positive experiences. There’s also the economic factor; it’s a big investment to pay for a university education so some young people and their families are saying, 'let’s look at what our options are'.

We’ve got more apprenticeships opening up at higher levels than ever before. Previously, people would have thought that apprenticeships were solely craft level skills in engineering, construction and hairdressing, but over the last few years they have expanded to become available in almost any occupational field. Now you can do an apprenticeship that will give you the equivalent of A-levels or a degree. Big employers such as Rolls Royce and BT offer apprenticeships that stand up as better or as good as going to university and looking for a job afterwards. Look at BAE, which has always taken apprentices and is now offering programmes in purchasing, HR and business administration – these big businesses are expanding their apprenticeship programmes in a whole range of areas.

The best apprenticeships are always highly competitive, just like the best university places or the best jobs. What the NAS says to people looking to get an apprenticeship is to really prepare, to know something about the company, the sector and the job, and to make sure they have a really strong CV and application. Apprentice employers are looking for passion and enthusiasm in the trade, and want to employ someone who is motivated rather than looking for specific academic qualifications.

All the evidence shows employers benefit from offering apprenticeships. Apprenticeships lead to a more productive workforce, better individual and business performance, higher customer satisfaction, and a happier workforce. Finally employers are starting to recognise this.

The number of employers offering apprenticeships has grown and will continue to increase in 2013, particularly as more employers offer higher apprenticeships alongside their graduate programmes.

A report on the return of investment by Warwick University through the Institute of Economic Research is really clear that employers need to invest in their apprentices by giving them time to train. Of course, at the beginning they’re not as productive as a readily-skilled person might be, but it’s only a very short period of time before the apprentice can demonstrate that they are paying their own way, and benefiting the business.

Other strong evidence shows that the employer and the apprentice build up a bond over the time of the apprenticeship that means they are not only more likely to stay with the company and be promoted, but also understand the business, offer new ideas and be part of the team.

My job is about taking Government policy and making it a reality. I love my job and feel lucky and fortunate to be involved in the apprenticeship programme as it is going through a real renaissance right now. We have more apprenticeships than ever before and more of a higher quality. The job I do is mostly at a national level, but I also get to interact with people in a small but very important way as the WorldSkills UK official delegate, celebrating the very best talent young people have to offer on the WorldSkills platform.

Having a partner such as City & Guilds promoting apprenticeships and making opportunities more available to young people is really important. The more we can create noise behind the apprenticeship programme, bust some of those myths and really celebrate the best talents, the more the programme will continue to thrive and expand.

There’s a contribution to the cause from the individuals themselves who speak out about the value of apprenticeships, as well as from the government who fund half a million apprenticeship starts every year. The UK makes a massive investment in apprenticeships at the moment, but by charitable organisations, businesses and government coming together, we can really maximise that contribution.

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