“Graduates who’ve studied full time aren’t always aware of what’s going on in the real world. It stands to reason that if you enter an industry with the right theoretical knowledge and some practical experience you’re going to be in a much better place. When these students finish their courses, they already understand our business. They know how to work as part of a team, and they’re more confident too – they’ve seen how their skills and knowledge can make a real difference to significant, high-value projects.”
These are the thoughts of Eillish Kwai, Employment and Skills Manager at the Ardmore Group, and they very eloquently sum up one of the real benefits of hiring apprentices. With this, as well as other benefits expressed elsewhere, making a persuasive case about the value of apprenticeships, what are the key things employers need to bear in mind when considering recruiting an apprentice or sending existing staff on an apprenticeship programme?
First of all, an employer’s main commitment comes in the form of entering into a learning agreement with both the apprentice and a learning provider such as LSBU. Employers must agree to support and provide sufficient opportunities for their apprentice to learn the skills necessary for them to successfully complete the selected apprenticeship.
Apprenticeship standards are written by employers from within the relevant sector to ensure they meet the needs of their industry, and each standard sets out the employer commitment in terms of work-based learning and end point assessment.
As members of an employer-facing university with strong industry partnerships, LSBU staff are experienced in meeting the needs of employers to ensure workforces are trained as efficiently and effectively as possible. An example of this comes from our Chartered Manager Degree Apprenticeship, which will be delivered in just three years (as opposed to the standard five years stated in the apprenticeship standard). This has been developed as a direct response to feedback from our employers about their need to have trained staff as quickly as possible.
Stuart Earl, Head of Training at Gleeds, which currently sponsors students on the surveying apprenticeship, says that this ability to input into the course content and structure is a key appeal of the apprenticeships. “With Degree Apprenticeship courses, employers are involved in the structuring, content and focus of the learning on offer, so we know that the result will be a study programme that’s relevant to the workplace. There is more of a match between academic learning and the practical knowledge employees need to make good surveyors. There’s increased engagement between the training providers, such as LSBU, and the employers, which should benefit everybody.”
Once an apprenticeship is underway, there is a requirement for formal work-based learning as part of the programme. Many of our partners set up mentoring schemes, regular meetings with HR advisers and internal training to complement the theoretical training we provide, something that can prove extremely useful, as Brendan Robinson of Transport for London (TfL) explains: “If you take on apprentices, you need to make sure that they are given the right kind of support and mentoring. Some people really enjoy nurturing young staff, and it gives them the chance to take on those opportunities, which can often lead to their own confidence levels improving.”
For some employers who haven’t supported apprenticeships before, there can be concern expressed about loss of productivity and disruption but our experience shows that partners don’t find it to be an issue at all. In fact, many encounter the opposite and say that apprentices bring real benefits in sometimes unexpected ways.
“If you engage with the apprentice scheme properly, then there are many benefits – and what might surprise some people is that they extend beyond the apprentices themselves,” adds Brendan Robinson from TfL. “Losing staff for one day a week doesn’t cause any issues. You know what the situation is when you take an apprentice on, so their day release to university is built into your planning to start with. If anything, it gives the employee extra skills because they learn to manage their workload while studying. Time management is a valuable skill because things can happen in the course of your job that mean you have to plan and manage your workload anyway.
“Apprenticeships are a really big part of recruitment now. Employers who don’t yet understand just how much value apprentices can add to an organisation are missing out on a great opportunity. Apprenticeships are one of the best ways to attract and develop your staff, and they are very easy to find out about. Young people are increasingly finding out about apprenticeships and agreeing that they are a reasonable alternative to just studying at university. In order to attract the best people, organisations need to get on board. They need to make sure they are offering effective apprenticeship schemes in conjunction with good universities that are going to deliver what young people are looking for as they start their career.”