Managing a successful apprenticeships programme: Five top tips from the experts

Building on our session with employers which shared their advice on how to start apprenticeships successfully, this time we’re looking at what to do once they’re up and running. We invited the experts again and here’s what they had to say.

1. Listen to what your apprentices want

Emily Austin, Engagement Director of the Association of Apprentices, 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

Essentially, they just want to be equipped to achieve their own successes. They’re looking for a solid foundation from their employer, from which they can work hard with confidence.


2. The better the system, the better the results

Richard Kirk, founder of Workplus, is helping employers to work with each other to change the culture of apprenticeships:

  • He noticed employers were facing the same challenges – searching for talent, running out of time, and wanting hires that stick around.
  • And young people were facing challenges over student debt, job seeking, and wanting to do something real – with their head and their hands.

But despite apprenticeships being the obvious solution for both parties’ needs, employers were still resistant because of the entrenched and outdated perception of apprenticeships.

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. Among many other features of the platform is a cross-company mentoring scheme, which is focused on the success of the individual apprentice – not the programme or business. By working with other employers – who are sometimes their competitors – the system grows and both the apprentice and employer win.


3. Acknowledge and cater to the uniqueness of apprenticeships

Rebecca Hopwood, Head of Sales at UCAS, shared the results of her research into how apprenticeships need something a little different to jobs or degrees:

“There are three key areas to consider for employers. Firstly, students and their influencers like parents, teachers, and advisers are looking for information much earlier than you might think. Secondly, information and advice needs to be personalised and focussed on outcomes – considering what is right for each candidate. And thirdly, consider the pastoral, social, and cultural aspects of apprenticeships. Recruitment and onboarding needs to incorporate these.”


4. It’s not always sunshine and rainbows

There are few people who can attest to the strengths and weaknesses 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. Kimberley shared her experience of apprenticeships – and how they can be a rocky road sometimes:

Apprenticeships are still evolving and changing for the modern age, meaning not everything will work for every organisation, and some things that work for one won’t work for others.

What works for Lloyds when it comes to apprenticeships
  • Structured starts and cohorts
  • Engagement with line managers up front to agree what’s going to happen
  • The blended approach of remote learning and face-to-face learning
  • Regular communication with training providers via consistent coach contact
The challenges of running apprenticeships within Lloyds
  • Planning and recording the 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
  • Achieving early visibility and advertising roles appropriately within enough time

The solution? As ever, it’s communication between apprentices and employers – but also leaning into support networks like Emily’s Association of Apprentices and Richard’s Workplus.

Watch the full webinar