As we reach the end of National Apprenticeship Week 2015, many businesses across the UK will be assessing all that apprenticeships have to offer. The objective of the initiative is to increase awareness and take-up of apprenticeships and traineeships, with the overarching theme to challenge us all to think about how much we really know about these paid, skills-based programmes.
It wasn’t so long ago that apprenticeships were viewed by some as a poor substitute for going to university. Now, with a shortage of jobs for school leavers, and a scarcity of skills in many sectors, apprenticeships have become an ideal solution to bridge the gap in the market. The number of placements have risen substantially year on year. For 2013-2014 there were more than 850,000 and National Apprenticeship Week 2015 has been a celebration of the concept, and the positive impact apprenticeships have on individuals, businesses and the UK economy as a whole.
The biggest benefit for the individual is the fact they can ‘earn while they learn’. Students taken on as apprentices are transported straight into a working environment, gaining the practical knowledge that some employers find is lacking in university graduates. The apprenticeship could even be considered an extension of their education, with regular financial rewards for learning a skilled trade or business, that may send them a few rungs higher on the career ladder.
For the employer, almost nine in 10 businesses who had hoped for benefits as a result of hiring an apprentice report they have received them – from improved skills levels and service, to a boost in morale and productivity. The government’s financial statistics also speak for themselves, with companies reporting an average increase in productivity by £214 a week when they hire apprentices – and the estimated contribution to the wider economy is in the region of £34 billion.
Throughout the last week, businesses, schools, colleges and training organisations up and down the country have held events to highlight the benefits of these schemes, while employers have been encouraged to pledge new apprenticeship and traineeship vacancies via an online Pledge-o-meter.
Here, at Whiteoaks, we launched our PR Apprenticeship Scheme several years ago in a bid to support our latest digital offering. In 2012, three new apprentices joined the business, one to support more traditional public relations campaigns and two trainees to support the digital side. The scheme has been a resounding success; in fact those apprentices have all become valued Whiteoaks’ team members, gaining hands-on skills and experience to help them move along their career paths. A year after the scheme commenced we were honoured with ‘The Investors in People Apprenticeship Newcomer Employer of the Year 2013’ award at the National Apprenticeship Awards.
This is testament to the fact that apprenticeship programmes really do work, on both sides of the employment spectrum. And with this year’s National Apprenticeship scheme drawing to a close, more companies across the UK can now nurture young talent, and share their pledges to take on apprentices boosting the economy both locally and nationally.