The Association of Apprenticeships is a social and professional network designed to connect apprentices across the UK to support and share with one another. Apprentices can also learn soft skills, attend events, and voice their opinions in order to shape policy. Emily Austin, Engagement Director of the Association, shared insight gathered directly from her members and communities about their recommendations to employers:
What apprentices recommend
- Engagement across the organisation
- Clear support paths
- Sufficient resources to do their apprenticeship
- Close links with their provider
What matters most to apprentices
- Belonging to a group
- Advice on their career pathway
- Sector information and access to experts
- Access to professional and life skills development
The presiding theme across all points discussed was that apprentices want to be equipped to achieve their own successes – it’s the solid foundation that they seek.
As well as the vocational and industry-specific support that apprentices require, there was perhaps an even greater focus on the real life challenges they may face while studying and working – money, taxes, moving home, mental health, stress, work-life balance, wellbeing, and more.
They want videos, they want podcasts, they want bite-sized information that they can get to quite easily on the go. Mobile-first is the most important for them.”
Emily Austin – Engagement Director, Association of Apprentices
How apprenticeship culture has changed via employer collaboration
Richard Kirk, founder of Workplus, shared a story about how employers are working together to change the culture of apprenticeships. In 2016, he worked with businesses to help with staff and training problems, and discovered a range of common themes.
He found employers were all facing three common challenges
- Searching for talent
- Running out of time
- Wanting hires that stick around
While the general population were facing challenges and doubts of their own
- Student debt
- Job seeking
- Wanting to do something real – with both their head and their hands
And despite apprenticeships being the obvious solution for both parties’ needs, employers were still resistant because of the entrenched and outdated perception of apprenticeships. Clearly something needed to change.
Evoking his admiration of the philosophy of the Tour de France, where competing athletes must work together in order to get ahead, Richard founded Workplus to solve this challenge in a format which has collaboration at its heart.
Workplus introduced a common application and selection process, where people can apply in one place to multiple companies which have multiple apprenticeships – much like the way UCAS works. Workplus also formalised agreed minimum and maximum salaries, which are well above the national apprentice minimum wage:
- Level 2 – up to £13,000
- Level 3 – up to £15,000
- Level 5 – up to £18,000
- Level 6 – up to £19,000
Workplus also encouraged its employer members – in that Tour de France style – to work with their competitors for the greater good of the apprenticeships cause. Within Workplus there are cross-company mentoring schemes focused on the success of the individual apprentice – not the programme or business.
Put simply, Workplus is a marketplace which connects the demand for talent from employers with the supply of eager learners in would-be apprentices – working alongside government, training providers, and influencers.
What does UCAS research say about post-COVID apprenticeships?
UCAS and the UK Government share the same belief in the power of apprenticeships to change the face of learning and working in Britain. They are also united in the drive to get as much feedback as possible from apprentices themselves, as a way to navigate the choppy waters of an ever-evolving framework.
The latest research from UCAS confirms the importance of this drive, as it shows that young people find the apprenticeship journey difficult and confusing at times, as information is high in volume but low in organisation. It’s a challenge to find the answers to their questions:
- How do degrees compare to apprenticeships?
- Where can I find and apply for apprenticeships?
- How do I apply for an apprenticeship and what do I need?
Rebecca Hopwood, Head of Sales at UCAS, shared some of the reasons why the sector needs a helping hand:
Interest in apprenticeships is increasing but opportunities are declining. More than half of those interested in applying for university next year are also interested in the prospect of an apprenticeship, but a similar amount of employers felt unable to commit to apprenticeships in the immediate future. In 2019/20, the number of apprenticeship starts fell in every enterprise size band compared to the previous year.”
And in the war for information, there is a lot of work still to be done. More than 30% of students don’t get any apprenticeship content from their school or college, and 25% say that information about applying is difficult or very difficult to find. This was brought into sharp focus when almost half of current students told us that they would have made better choices with more information.
To help employers who want to stand out amidst the confusing information landscape, we asked students what they want to hear:
- The starting salary, job description, typical tasks, and skills gained
- The prospects and progression of the apprenticeship
- The qualifications, experiences, and skills required
- Some examples of successful apprentices
- The social side of the apprenticeship
- How and when to apply
There are few people who can attest to the strength of a programme than an apprentice, but when that person is also in charge of the scheme it becomes a truly unique insight. Kimberley Dee is an Apprenticeships Manager at Lloyds Banking Group, as well as being a L6 apprentice on the Chartered Manager programme.
Each programme is designed to deliver bespoke content aligned to the role and business need, which nets the employer a number of benefits.
- Improved engagement scores
- Lower absences
- Higher retention rate
- More promotions
- A much greater value-add in projects which include apprentices
These reflect the group’s ambition to focus on building ‘10 key skills for the future’ in its employees
- Personal excellence
- Conduct and operational risk
- AI and applied science
- Customer excellence
- Data analysis and insight
- Relationship management
- Architecture and engineering
- Cyber security
- Innovation, agile change, and design
What works for Lloyd’s when it comes to apprenticeships are the structured starts and cohorts, the engagement with line managers up front to agree what’s going to happen, the blended approach of remote learning and face-to-face learning, and the regular communication with training providers via consistent coach contact.
Speaking candidly, Kimberley also laid out the challenges of running apprenticeships within Lloyd’s – which are mainly the planning and recording of that 20% ‘off the job’ time, the financial services industry’s restrictions on systems and access, the impact of the pandemic on apprentices trying to work and learn simultaneously, and being able to achieve early visibility and advertise roles appropriately within enough time.
For employers like Lloyd’s, which are navigating the apprenticeships world as it evolves, the support of organisations like Emily’s Association of Apprentices and Richard’s Workplus will surely prove invaluable.