How has the pandemic affected apprenticeships?
... and 10 reasons why they’re still a fast track to career success for school leavers.
Are apprenticeships ever a first choice?
As a parent, you’re more likely to know about the university route to careers rather than the apprenticeship route. It’s not likely you have personal experience of apprenticeships and you may not know anyone who has taken an apprenticeship. This could sway you towards dismissing apprenticeships as a second-rate option rather than a first choice career plan. Don’t rule out the fact that an apprenticeship could be the right choice for your child.
Apprenticeships can be a great route to career success, especially for teenagers who find it easier to learn through practical application rather than academic studying. They offer:
a “learn while you earn” path to further qualifications;
multiple entry levels at a variety of different education levels;
plenty of choice about the time spent studying – from one year to seven;
options to add on modules to strengthen qualifications;
a chance to learn practical, transferrable skills;
opportunities to move between different industries as interests and job opportunities change; and
first-hand experience - something that cannot be taught at school or in the lecture theatre!
How has the Covid-19 pandemic affected apprenticeships?
We’ve all had to adapt during the fallout from Covid-19. As schools have adjusted to online teaching and many of us are now working from home, businesses offering apprenticeships have had to shift from hands on training to digital learning. In the most part, this has been successful, but not all skills can be taught online and some need face-to-face experience. This has sadly meant a loss of some apprenticeships.
There’s short-term nervousness around offering opportunities until there’s greater marketplace stability. Unsurprisingly, those industries hit most harshly by Covid-19 are likely to be most short of apprenticeship opportunities – so if your teen is hoping to work in retail or hospitality, any opportunities will be highly competitive and they may need to wait it out, or take another option in the meantime. Small businesses recognise the importance of apprenticeships, but can’t afford the costs at the moment. Inevitably, there’s a reduction in immediate opportunities across the board.
However, many businesses feel apprenticeships are critical to the economic recovery (70% of 600 surveyed in January 2021) and there’s optimism in the medium term that placements will increase. So it’s not all bad news; there are still lots of options available, both for degree apprenticeships and non-degree apprenticeships. Read on to find out why they could be the best choice for your child.
Advantages for apprentices over academic graduates
Apprenticeships aren’t for everyone. They require plenty of self-discipline and hard-work to manage a real job and studies at the same time. However, they do provide an edge over academic graduates in a number of ways.
Here are ten reasons why they’re a great choice to fast-track your child’s career success:
1. There’s a vast range of career choices to suit all different interests and personality types, some familiar, some less so, from virtually any industry sector and at any entry level. To name a few: abattoir operative, accountant, agriculture, barista, beautician, business manager, chef, electrician, hotel manager, human resources officer, nurse, project manager, scaffolder, site supervisor, surveyor, town planner, youth worker.
2. Apprentices don’t need to choose a career option at a young age then stick to it. Apprenticeships teach transferrable skills, enabling switching between job roles and different industries.
3.Apprentices are paid. Your child won’t be incurring debt while they're studying nor will they be distracted by part-time work to finance their living expenses, in the way university students might.
4. They gain experience as well as knowledge (knowledge can be taught in classroom, experience can’t).
5. They’ll learn organisational behaviours – teaching them good habits for the workplace.
6. They’re applying the skills they’re learning straight away as they’re doing a real job.
7. They’re learning a work ethic from day one.
8. They’re getting direct experience within their own department, with other departments and with external stakeholders in the sector, learning how businesses operate and the inter-relationships between different departments and sectors.
9. There’s support at every level of their career – and they can take breaks between learning if lifestyle changes mean they don’t have time to work and study – and they’ll still have a job.
10.They’re learning transferrable skills, such as analytics, communications, correspondence, leadership, numeracy, being organised and time management.
Why businesses value apprentices
Taking on an apprentice can be an expensive investment for businesses. Whilst the educational element is funded by the government, companies still need to pay their apprentices a salary and finance supervision time from staff. The long-term value of investing in apprentices makes this worthwhile. Key reasons include:
Staff retention: apprentices usually develop loyalty to the company and are often long-term employees;
Embedding values and brand - apprentices learn about the company’s brand and values from day one;
Developing occupational competence during training;
Getting students interested in industries where there are skills shortages (engineering being a great example);
Providing a way of improving a company’s diversity;
Increasing the capability of the organisation as well as the individual;
Enabling upskilling and training;
Helping companies forge links with the local area.
If your child is interested in apprenticeships, they can speak to their careers adviser at school, have a look online at local opportunities (there’s lots of information on the UK Gov website) or check out what other apprentices have to say on Rate My Apprenticeship.
If you want to know more about why apprenticeships could be the right choice for your child and what’s involved in application, find out in The Parents’ Guide to Apprenticeships or The Parents' Guide to Degree Apprenticeships
*This article takes information from the Build the Future Apprenticeship survey, commissioned by The Open University, in association with The 5% Club. Over 600 employers in England were asked about their plans for apprenticeships in the coming months. The polling was conducted in January 2021 amongst small and large businesses from across the private, public and third sector. Download the full survey here