Apprenticeships are steadily growing in popularity and number. School and college leavers are keen on obtaining additional experience through practical work rather than academic study and making an early start on building their career.
The huge flow of candidates and the intense competition among them can make it difficult to grab the opportunity you want, especially when it comes to specialised industries like engineering. This means that apprenticeship candidates must invest a lot of effort in making a good impression at their interview by demonstrating both knowledge and motivation. Are you concerned that you have little experience when it comes to the process of recruitment? Apprentice Eye editor Rebecca Hoursley has put forward some useful tips on how to make an outstanding first impression when encountering the real business world.
Since you are likely to have limited or no work experience, it is essential that you present your transferable skills, Hoursley says. These might include attention to detail, time management, coordination of events or knowledge of certain software products. Some of these universal abilities can be particularly important to a specific job and their presentation is of key importance.
Another tip is to research the business and industry beforehand. Being acquainted with the company’s history and core business is essential and makes a good impression on interviewers. It is also a good idea to familiarise yourself with specific business processes or company projects that interest you and might be part of your future job.
Furthermore, you need to be clear about the job specification and understand the role well. It is worth asking additional questions even before the interview so that your presentation is focused and related to the everyday tasks of the apprenticeship. It is also good to ask questions after the interview. Those might have to do with the potential for personal growth within the company, which would imply long-term interest and determination.
Logistics is indispensable for operations in every economic sector. In the UK, 2.2 million people are employed in the logistics business, which amounts to 8% of the workforce. However, the sector will need another 588,000 workers during the next six years and this will present a massive challenge for UK logistics companies. Their biggest problem is recruitment and retention, which is further exacerbated by the fact that employers cannot find people with the necessary skills. They are trying to address the issue through staff training, both on and off the job, but that in itself represents yet another challenge.
These are among the key findings of the 2014 sector report produced by Skills for Logistics (SfL). The serious shortage of skilled workers is underscored by the fact of 75% of the companies polled said they had provided training for their staff. This has led to a number of business benefits, with 80% reporting improved productivity, greater efficiency and stronger staff motivation. However, skills development is also proving a challenge, mainly due to lack of time, government legislation and insufficient funding.
Given the need for significant future expansion of the logistics workforce, employers were asked to identify the factors most likely to affect training requirements in the next few years. The list included legislative changes, the need for more sustainable work practices and technological innovations. According to more than three quarters of the survey respondents, the focus in the year ahead should fall on developing job-specific skills within the workforce. Other skills that urgently require improvement are communication, organisational and planning skills, SfL established.
Industries like engineering and IT have repeatedly raised the alarm on skill shortages, which has further stoked efforts to revitalise the apprenticeship system. Given the attention they have received in the past few years, apprenticeships may appear to some people to be a modern invention but the truth is that they have been around since the Middle Ages. This goes to show that the importance of vocational training was acknowledged centuries ago and the practice has endured because of its benefits for both parties. The Daily Gazette has combed through the latest research results to compile a list of what makes apprenticeships so important.
From an employer’s perspective, there are several major benefits. According to 96% of companies with apprenticeship programmes, having trainees on the team boosts morale, improves retention rates and brings new ideas. Moreover, 72% of employers report that apprenticeships help increase productivity. For the UK economy as a whole, apprenticeship completions are expected to deliver productivity gains amounting to £3.4 billion within a decade.
But there would not be such a keen interest on the part of young people if apprenticeships did not benefit them as well. The most important advantage they get is employability: 86% of apprentices secure a job after completing their training, with 67% getting a permanent position at the company that has trained them. There is also the benefit of earning good money while learning the tricks of the trade: many employers pay their apprentices more than the required minimum (currently £2.68 an hour). And with more companies waking up to the importance of on-the-job training, young people can now embark on a career in virtually any sector: their choice encompasses over 250 different types of apprenticeships.
Apprenticeships have garnered much attention in the past few years, becoming a focal point for the government in its efforts to combat youth unemployment and promote skills development. But while employers and training providers are spreading the message through their professional organisations, apprentices have so far lacked their own platform for support and representation. This has changed with the launch of the National Society of Apprentices (NSA).
The newly created organisation has already attracted as members over 100 employers, training providers and colleges in addition to more than 100,000 apprentices.
Siobhan Knott, member of the NSA interim leadership team, said that the national society constituted a major step towards raising the profile of apprentices and ensuring they get the respect they deserve. Through the Apprentice Exchange group and forum, young Britons in vocational training can make new acquaintances, swap ideas and make their voices heard. The NSA provides the sense of community apprentices across the country have lacked so far, Knott added.
As Not Going To Uni reports, the NSA came into existence in February. It was created with the aim of supporting apprentices, giving their views national representation and promoting apprentice rights. The society also intends to shine a light on apprentices’ contribution to their communities.
The NSA has been around for only a short time but it has already championed several important initiatives. In Northern Ireland it helped apprentices get together with decision-makers and discuss their future vision for apprenticeships. In Wales it supported the launch of a research project dealing with trainee travel costs. In addition, the NSA organised a trip to Finland for apprentices from Leeds and Doncaster, providing them with opportunity to see how the Nordic country’s apprenticeship system works.
Apprenticeships are essential for combating youth unemployment and helping the UK build a strong talent base for the future. The government has initiated a series of reforms to improve the apprenticeship system but priority is being given to solving quality issues and raising standards in sectors with acute skill shortages, for example aerospace, automotive and life sciences. This is definitely a positive development but since the UK economy is predominantly service-based, more attention should be given to improvements in service industries.
This is one of the key recommendations made in a new report from The Work Foundation. In an article for the HR Director website, author Katy Jones outlined the major issues addressed in the policy paper. It welcomes the launch of the Trailblazer pilots as a way to give employers the lead in apprenticeship programme development but also calls for the inclusion of more service industries amongst the Trailblazers. Skill shortages may not be as acute in health and social care, business administration and customer service but these are sectors providing the largest number of employment and apprenticeship opportunities to young Britons.
As Jones pointed out, the service sector is the one typically fighting the hardest battle with issues related to apprenticeship quality, educational content and duration. This presents a significant problem because the UK economy is driven by services: the sector provides 85% of UK jobs and is the first destination for most young people entering the labour market. Moreover, the service sector creates the largest number of apprenticeship positions: eight of the top ten industries by apprentice recruitment in 2011/2012 were service industries, with business administration and customer service among them. It is therefore very important to raise apprenticeship standards in the sector, Jones noted.
More and more young Britons are coming to realise that a university degree is no longer a prerequisite for professional success. In fact, numerous studies have demonstrated that this is clearly not the case. Apprenticeships have proved themselves an excellent route to career progression and the government wants to make them the norm for school leavers who decide against academic pursuits. The problem is that access to apprenticeship information leaves a lot to be desired so many youngsters may be missing out on a great opportunity. For those still unsure how an apprenticeship can benefit them, Not Going To Uni recently presented the most important statistics on the subject.
First of all, potential apprenticeship candidates can expect fully funded training if they are aged 16 to 18. They are also entitled to a minimum hourly pay rate of £2.68 and many employers offer higher wages. According to the Apprenticeship Pay Survey, apprentices get £212 net per week on average. Moreover, an apprenticeship will add an extra £100,000 to a person’s lifetime earnings.
There are about 250 different types of apprenticeships young Britons can choose from, mastering both the theoretical and practical aspects of their chosen profession through learning on the job. Successful completion of the training programme can even open the door to a university degree without the associated debt because employers typically cover those costs. And the chances of securing a job are excellent: up to 95% of apprentices remain employed by the company that recruited them for training. This is hardly surprising since 96% of enterprises report that apprenticeships boost their business.
The UK government is betting on a string of reforms to improve the apprenticeship system. But according to Lord Adonis, who served as education minister between 2005 and 2008, the UK needs a “revolution” in apprenticeships, which should include a specific focus on youth apprenticeships and bring about a significant increase both in apprenticeship quality and quantity, the Huffington Post reported.
Lord Adonis made these remarks during a skills debate taking part within the annual conference of the British Chambers of Commerce. Addressing his audience, the former Labour government minister described the number of apprenticeships that are available only for up to 12 months as “unacceptable”. He went on to declare that the system clearly needs a fundamental overhaul, especially in the area of youth apprenticeships. It is not enough to make incremental improvements in quality and quantity: a step change is required, he insisted.
According to Lord Adonis, the government should work alongside schools and employers to address an issue of particular importance, namely the quality of career advice received by students. It definitely leaves a lot to be desired and teachers are generally unable to provide proper guidance on apprenticeships and vocational training. That issue will not be resolved without prompt action and Lord Adonis advocates the introduction of “senior” people whose main responsibility will be maintaining contact with local employers and helping young people secure apprentice positions. UK schools should have people with a keen understanding of the local employment landscape and employers, encouraging the latter to create more apprenticeship opportunities for local youngsters and providing advice to young people, Lord Adonis said.
Many companies in the Thames Valley region find it hard to recruit young people with the right skills. It is therefore hardly surprising that they consider apprenticeships very important for building their talent base, stating that vocational training beats university when it comes to preparing young people for working life.
This has been established through the first Skills, Education and Recruitment Survey in the region. Led by hiring specialist Hays, the poll involved about 100 local enterprises.
The results showed that 58% of employers were primarily driven to recruit in order to grow their business. But finding people with the right skills proves a challenge for 61% of Thames Valley companies. According to 68% of the sample, apprenticeships do a better job than universities at getting young people ready for work life.
Local employers rank attitude as the top criterion for candidate suitability. For 73% of companies, attitude trumps qualifications and experience in the choice of new staff.
Commenting on the survey results, Hays Specialist Recruitment managing director Mark Sheldon said that more and more employers were looking for people with a learning aptitude. Companies are increasingly prioritising a candidate’s ability to learn new skills over their current expertise and experience. Now that the economy has returned to growth, more employment opportunities will be springing up and business organisations will have to work harder to attract and retain employees. Training and skills development should be included in the whole package employers put on offer so that they can build a workforce prepared for the constantly changing business environment, Sheldon added.
At the start of this week, the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education (NIACE) announced the launch of a programme designed to improve apprenticeship delivery. Commissioned by the Education and Training Foundation, the Apprenticeship Staff Support Programme (ASSP) will provide £1.5 million in funding to projects that can improve apprenticeship outcomes for both employers and trainees.
Phase One of the programme is already under way and organisations can submit their bids, applying either alone or as part of a consortium, NIACE said. Priority will be given to projects that promote employer involvement in apprenticeship delivery and/or focus on further improvement in curriculum design, teaching, learning and assessment.
The plan is to choose eight to 24 projects in the first phase and distribute up to £717,000 of the total funding pot. If a project turns out to be particularly successful, it will be considered for expansion during Phase Two of the ASSP, which will begin later in the year.
NIACE section director Fiona Aldridge said that apprenticeships had amply demonstrated their importance for the development of vital skills and the provision of support for people to enter work. NIACE is working alongside the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills to promote further improvement in apprenticeship quality and ensure fair access for every applicant. The launch of the ASSP is the latest step in that direction and a particularly important one in light of current apprenticeship reforms. The programme will advance efforts to tackle skill shortages through high-quality apprenticeships that cater to the needs of all stakeholders, Aldridge added.
The biggest names in the corporate world have long relied on apprenticeships, with most top engineering and manufacturing companies running apprenticeship programmes. Rolls-Royce, BAE Systems, BMW, British Airways, Network Rail – these are just a few examples of corporate heavyweights swearing by apprenticeships. The message has reached the small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) sector but more of its representatives should embrace apprenticeships, making the most of government incentives to nurture talent and drive growth, according to Gary David Smith.
In an article for the Training Journal, the IT entrepreneur points out that this is a great time for SMEs to recruit apprentices. In the latest sign of its commitment to the apprenticeship cause, the government recently announced an extra support package: the Apprenticeship Grant for Employers (AGE) scheme will receive a further £170 million and another £20 million will be allocated for support of degree-level and post-graduate apprenticeships. This funding, specifically targeted at the SME sector, is expected to help create 100,000 new apprenticeships. The AGE scheme contributed to the creation of 49,300 new apprenticeships between February 2012 and October 2013, with another 15,800 in the planning stage.
According to Smith, the government’s financial incentives are more than welcome but it is also crucial to deliver properly designed apprenticeships. This means that skills training programmes must aim for “the right balance between learning and doing,” as Smith puts it. He also believes that the government should expand the AGE scheme in a way that makes it possible for SMEs to engage with young people while they are still in full-time education.