|Apprenticeships: A Route To Success|
Apprenticeships are experiencing a resurgence at the moment and people are increasingly seeing them as a viable route to entering and progressing careers...
The Government has significantly increased its investment in apprenticeships and is encouraging employers of all sizes to take on more apprentices. No matter what stage you’re at in your career, an apprenticeship can be an excellent way to develop the skills that place you on the path to future success.
They offer the opportunity for an individual to gain valuable practical skills, relevant on-the-job experience and industry knowledge, leading to nationally recognised qualifications. And, unlike many other types of learning, apprentices can earn as they learn.
What does an apprenticeship involve?
Apprenticeships are work-based training programmes designed around the needs of employers. They focus on learning while performing on the job, and are made up of three components to provide employees with all the training they need. A Technical Certificate (VRQ) provides the skills and knowledge essential to successful employment, and a National Vocational Qualification (NVQ) recognises that these skills can be put into practice competently and consistently.
Finally, they include basic skills qualifications so that apprentices develop vital transferable employability skills including communication, numeracy, information technology, problem solving, working with others and improving individual learning.
Once an apprentice has completed their training, they are equipped with the right skills and training for their chosen industry. Many will go on to further employment within the same company. However, if this isn’t possible, the apprenticeship places them in good stead for future employment; they already have a valuable, in-depth knowledge of their chosen industry, as well as the skills and capabilities to get involved and add value to a business from day one.
Are they valuable?
Apprenticeships offer an excellent way to get on the career ladder, as they provide the key skills required for progression. Because an apprenticeship involves on-the-job learning, apprentices can jump into work right away, instead of requiring any entry-level training.
In fact apprenticeships can be a vital step towards significant success. Last year, City & Guilds released its Vocational Rich List, showcasing the wealthiest people who have carved out a successful career through the vocational route. 24 out of the 100 people on the List started out as engineering apprentices, including Sir Anthony Bamford from JCB, who topped the list with a total wealth of £2.15bn.
A number of big names from the world of Formula One also began their careers as apprentices. Ron Dennis, Chairman of McLaren Automotive, is worth £177m (#20), Mercedes boss Ross Brawn is at number 34 with £100m, and ex-world champions Nigel Mansell (#55) and Jackie Stewart (#62) are worth £55m and £41m respectively. Moving from motorsport to football, Sir Alex Ferguson, the manager of Manchester United, started out as a Govan ship building apprentice. Today, he is worth at least £20m.
Even though some of these people took their apprenticeships in different fields to what they ended up doing, it shows how apprenticeships don’t just develop technical skills; they provide people with the necessary transferable skills to help them succeed no matter what path they choose.
What do employers think?
Many employers are already reaping the benefits of their apprenticeship schemes, and are increasingly viewing them as a vital component of their recruitment mix. Just some of the big-name employers offering apprenticeships are Honda, BT, Network Rail, Airbus, and British Gas.
Not only do they deliver an excellent return on investment by enabling a better-skilled workforce, but they impact on the wider economy. In fact, a recent report by City & Guilds (The Economic Value of Apprenticeships, February 2012) showed that UK businesses would be boosted by £4.37 billion by 2020 if the government achieves its target of creating an additional million apprenticeship places by 2013.
Employers also see apprentices as a great way to fill skills gaps, increase productivity, and develop the committed, loyal and competent workforce they need to be competitive both at home and abroad. Once they have completed their training, apprentices can jump straight into work, contributing from day one. They have the confidence and skills to excel and thrive in a working environment, resulting in lower overall training and recruitment costs.
Although there is still a widespread perception that employers value graduates above those who have taken a more practical pathway, a City & Guilds’ survey of 500 employers shows that over half (52%) of employers who hire apprentices feel they actually add more value than university graduates (Building Business Through Apprenticeships, February 2011).
And the benefits are not just financial. Apprentices have the added benefit of already knowing the culture of the organisation and industry, which employers undoubtedly value. They have pursued their chosen industry because it is something that interests them; something that they feel passionate about. This helps to boost their enthusiasm, commitment, productivity and working ethic – something that can positively impact on those working around them too. When it comes to developing themselves further, they are often keen to expand their skills through further training, and may even inspire others to consider developing their own capabilities.
What sectors are apprenticeships available in?
Apprenticeships are available in a variety of different sectors and across a range of levels. Whether you’re interested in retail, plumbing, engineering, administration or customer service, there will be an apprenticeship to suit your interests and your current skills. There will sometimes be prerequisites to get onto an apprenticeship scheme, but this will differ depending on the sector and the level of the apprenticeship. Likewise, there may be differences in the length of training the apprenticeship requires.
Currently, most apprenticeships are at levels 2 or 3, and investment is currently underway to create even more higher apprenticeships – at levels 4 and 5 - which are broadly comparable to full technical certificates (level 4) and Higher National Diplomas and Certificates (level 5). This means that soon, apprenticeships won’t just be a route to employment – they’ll be a way to progress further within employment.
Interested? What can you do next?
If you’re keen to explore how an apprenticeship can help you, there are a variety of resources available online. The National Apprenticeship Service (www.apprenticeships.org.uk) advertises all available vacancies on their website. In addition, City & Guilds recently launched its campaign, Million Extra, to help ensure one million apprenticeship starts by summer 2013. The Million Extra website, www.million-extra.co.uk features a plethora of resources for budding apprentices, as well as case studies of people who have already embarked on their apprenticeship journey.
Alternatively, if there’s a company you’re interested in working for, why not get in touch with them directly to see if they run an apprenticeship scheme?
Apprenticeships are becoming increasingly important in shaping the workforce of tomorrow, and more and more people are realising how an apprenticeship can place them on the right path to success. Last year, over 450,000 people took an apprenticeship in England. Now see what they can do for you.
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