Apprenticeships – a Brave New World 

About a year ago I was tasked with looking at introducing an apprenticeship programme for my organisation, Metropolitan. There was an appetite in some parts of the business to look at the ‘grow your own approach’ but this was definitely boosted by the introduction of the apprenticeship levy in April 2017.

Apprenticeships were new to me. Of course working in L&D I was aware of them but at the start of this journey I still had a lot of the preconceptions associated with apprenticeships – they are for young people, primarily for manual or administrative jobs, and, dare I say it, for people who couldn’t get in to university.

Working on this project has totally changed my perspective on apprenticeships. There have been a lot of obstacles along the way to navigate and I am now able to hold my own in a conversation about standards vs. frameworks, digital accounts, trailblazers and, everyone’s favourite, the ‘20% off the job learning’ time. I have a whole new range of vocabulary that was alien to me 18 months ago. But what I have learned is that apprenticeships offer the best of both worlds to many young people entering a daunting and competitive workplace where a degree doesn’t necessarily equal a job anymore.

Apprenticeships – a New Kind of Opportunity

Apprenticeships are a way for you to study and gain valuable work experience with that important ‘foot in the door’ emerging without massive student debt weighing on your shoulders. Apprenticeships are a vehicle for people who are looking to return to work after a career break, maybe as a carer, through illness or for childcare.

Apprenticeships offer an option for a career change, it is scary to think that you might give up the job you’ve always done to find the career you’ve always wanted but apprenticeships make it a possibility.

So we have made a start. We have a small pilot programme for our first year with a view to scaling up. As a levy paying organisation we have had to make decisions about quality and quantity. The main considerations facing us were whether we focused on new recruits or existing colleagues. As a Housing and Care & Support organisation we are not for profit. Not being able to use the levy to pay for salary costs is a significant consideration for us, particularly in the Care & Support part of the business.

For our pilot we have generally recruited for new headcount. This has the added pressure of extra salary costs but we managed to get these agreed. So far we have recruited seven apprentices, 4 within our Finance team and 3 as plumbers and joiners as part of our Repairs service.

I have worked with providers that people within those departments recommended which has helped and made use of their free recruitment service which has given us some really good candidates. I still have a lot to build on, not least getting someone in Finance help me work out how many apprentices we could support in our business going forward when we scale up from the pilot.

We are also looking at our first Care & Support apprentices which would come in a cohort requiring a different kind of induction, and carefully managing the 20% off the job time. Finally managing the apprentices now they are in their posts – monitoring performance, keeping them engaged, building that loyalty so that hopefully they will want to stay with us beyond their apprenticeship. I’ll let you know how I get on!

My children are still at primary school right now, but if the quality and range of apprenticeships continues to grow as it is now, would I support them choosing an apprenticeship over a conventional university education?


Photo by Samuel Zeller on Unsplash

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