Next month, between 14th and 18th March 2016, NAW 2016 will take place. National Apprenticeship Week is a showcase for, and a celebration of Apprenticeships – a look at how they benefit the UK economy, individual businesses and young people. This year’s theme is all about ‘rising to the top.’
As employers or company owners, you are no doubt fully aware of the emphasis the current government is putting on Apprenticeships as a way of both getting young people into meaningful employment and also as a way of easing the skills shortage within various sectors of the British economy.
Perhaps you have already introduced Apprenticeship programmes within your firm or maybe you are thinking about taking young people on in the future by way of an Apprenticeship. National Apprenticeship Week will promote Apprenticeships so that more companies can be encouraged to introduce them as part of their recruitment and staff retention strategy.
NAW 2016 (National Apprenticeship Week) – What Is It All About?
National Apprenticeship Week 2016 Events
Organised by the National Apprenticeships Service NAW 2016 will have a series of events up and down the country throughout the week, and, if your company is getting involved, you can register your particular event so that it can be shared on the online map of Apprenticeship events.
If you just want to dip your toes in, find out more about Apprenticeships and what is involved in them, then you can also use the online map to locate an event near you. Businesses, schools, colleges and other training organisations are all arranging events so there could be something in your locality.
Are You Ready To Commit With The National Apprenticeship Week 2016 Pledge-O-Meter?
If you are adding more Apprenticeships and Traineeships to your existing programme, or you are making a bit of a resolution to commit to introducing Apprenticeships and Traineeships, then you can also register this on the national ‘Pledge-O-Meter’ in the run up to the week. Last year, 23,000 Apprenticeships and Traineeships were pledged, so, naturally, it’s hoped that this year, that figure will be surpassed. The Pledge-O-Meter is already up and running so you can add to the tally whenever you like and help this number tick ever upwards.
The National Apprenticeship Week 2016 ‘Pass The Torch’ Campaign
Since January 26th 2016, an Olympic-style torch has been making a tour around southern England. 26th January was the National Apprenticeship Awards and, as a symbol of passing on knowledge from one generation to the next, the torch began its journey around the south of the country and will make appearances at various events organised for National Apprenticeship Week. It will be present in London on the 14th March for the launch of National Apprenticeship Week.
If you are committed to the employment and professional development of school leavers by way of offering Traineeships and Apprenticeship programmes and this sounds like something you want to be a part of as an employer, you can get all the relevant links and further information from here.
What Are The Challenges Facing Apprenticeships In 2016?
As well as being a showcase of successful apprentices and of the multitude of Apprenticeships out there, it is the mission of National Apprenticeship Week 2016 to demonstrate to both young people and employers that Apprenticeships are playing a valuable part in the building of careers and in the continuation of the success of the British economy.
The drive to push the validity and attraction of Apprenticeships has not come without challenges, however, and there are still challenges, both new and longstanding, that need to be overcome when it comes to the subject of Apprenticeships. Let’s take a look at some of those challenges and how events like National Apprenticeship Week can get rid of some of the misconceptions and myths surrounding Apprenticeships.
Myth 1 – Apprenticeships mean you are committed to a particular career
In the past, one of the selling points of Apprenticeships to young people was the fact that, having successfully completed a level on an Apprenticeship programme, the person could either go on to be employed by the company where they did their Apprenticeship or, if there were no vacancies available, they could apply for similar jobs elsewhere, using their skills and qualifications.
A great selling point, right? However, one of the challenges facing recruitment onto Apprenticeship programmes now is that this has slightly backfired. Recent research, ahead of National Apprenticeship Week 2016, has revealed that some young people are under the impression that doing an Apprenticeship means they are then committed to working in that industry for the rest of their life. This has dissuaded them from applying for placements.
The challenge now, to convince young people that this is actually not the case, is to sell other benefits of Apprenticeships. The training offered and the work experience gained during Apprenticeship programmes mean that young people are picking up knowledge of the workplace and transferrable skills, too. Young people need to be made aware that, should they want to take their career path in a different direction in the future, their Apprenticeship can benefit them in doing this.
Indeed, for you as an employer offering Apprenticeships, if you spot particular strengths in your young recruits, you could even direct them towards different pathways in another area of your company, perhaps, or even within a different industry.
Myth 2 – Apprenticeships are not real jobs
National Apprenticeship Week 2016 also faces the challenge of quashing the myth that Apprenticeships are not real jobs. A lot of young people believe they are not in a real job if they are doing an Apprenticeship. This could be because there are compulsory units involved that must be completed and then assessed by an assessor either in the workplace or in a training centre.
Also, not all Apprenticeships guarantee a role with the company upon completion of the Apprenticeship. This could be another reason for young people not feeling like they are in a ‘proper job’ if they know it could end on a given date.
Not all employers are in a position to be able to offer all of their Apprentices a permanent role on completion of their programme but, if you are in a position to offer permanent roles, really pushing that can help end that stigma felt by young people that they aren’t in a real job. And, for you as an employer, if you can offer permanent roles and promotion – and get a reputation for doing so – this then gives you the opportunity to choose from the best young candidates out there for your Apprenticeships as they should be applying for your roles in higher numbers.
Myth 3 – Apprenticeships pay low wages
Yes, it is true that all the literature out there will show the minimum wages that Apprentices must be paid and it is also true that a lot of young people out there are dissuaded from applying for Apprenticeship programmes because they feel they won’t be being a paid a decent wage.
Actually, the case is that, depending on the company and the type of apprenticeship, many employers out there pay above those minimum wages to their apprentices. If you are an employer who is in a position to offer higher wages, again, really advertising this can help to dispel that myth.
Apprentices are also receiving training courses and on the job training, too, so it is important for employers and the Apprenticeship Service to get this point across. An Apprenticeship is a programme whereby a person is actually being paid to learn and this is a point that needs to be communicated to young people.
Myth 4 – Apprenticeships are not a real alternative to university
A lot of young people still feel that going to university to study full time will get them a superior career and a higher salary than if they do Apprenticeships. So, Apprenticeships are still not being viewed as a true alternative for those people who either do not want to go to university or who are not in a position to go.
Events like National Apprenticeship Week 2016, with its theme of ‘rising to the top,’ should help towards eradicating this myth as Apprenticeships are celebrated. Also, these days, many more companies are advertising their Apprenticeship programmes in such a way that demonstrates Apprenticeships as a viable alternative and, in some industries, Apprenticeships are evolving.
In Law, for example, it is now possible to do an Apprenticeship whereby young people can become fully qualified solicitors. In this sense, the Apprenticeship is no longer second best. In the engineering sector, where there is an increasing need for skilled UK workers, companies are reaching out to try and remove the snobbery that still surrounds Apprenticeships. Amongst the challenges faced by the engineering sector is the ability to attract more female Apprentices. Currently, over 90% of young people doing Engineering Apprenticeships are male.
What Are The Benefits Of Pledging To Offer Apprenticeships In The Run Up To National Apprenticeship Week 2016?
I’ve written in the past about Traineeships and also the benefits to employers of creating Apprenticeships within their company, so we’ll not go into detail here, but employers who embrace Apprenticeships have said they have had a positive effect on their firms. So, if you are thinking about the best way to employ young people, develop and harness their skills, now could be the perfect time to get involved by using the Pledge-O-Meter to pledge Apprenticeships within your company.
And National Apprenticeship Week 2016 is not just about pledging to offer more Apprenticeships. It is also about realising the challenges faced currently and about quashing the myths surrounding them.
In the engineering sector, for example, Chief Executive and Chairman of engineering company, Reinshaw, Sir David McMurtry said in this Gloucester Citizen article, that employers need to be more involved with schools and the local community when it comes to Apprenticeships and encouraging people to be interested and excited by engineering. They are even going so far as working with primary schools, doing projects with children to show them that science is exciting. They are also working to encourage more females and people from ethnic minorities into the engineering industry by way of Apprenticeships and other methods.
So, in 2016, it is also about the bigger picture. In many sectors within the UK economy – and perhaps you are aware of this within your own industry – there is a skills shortage that is continuing to grow as staff already within those industries retire and as technology develops. Getting young people onto Apprenticeship programmes means specialist skills can be developed and the skills gap can be narrowed. But, the challenge is not just for you as an employer to offer Apprenticeships within your field – it is also about attracting young people onto those Apprenticeships.
National Apprenticeship Week 2016 will have events up and down the country – and employers, schools, colleges and training organisations can share ideas and work together locally to showcase Apprenticeships. And the current government is also working to encourage more schools to give access to Apprenticeship providers.
This recent news article highlights the point that some schools are only suggesting vocational courses and Apprenticeships to lower-attaining pupils. This contributes to the myth mentioned above that Apprenticeships are not seen as an equal alternative to university. These days – such as the Trailblazer Apprenticeships in Law – Apprenticeships really can take young people right to the top and qualifications can equal those of an honours degree. Employers can take action to reach out to schools and work together with them to make pupils aware of this fact so that young people can make more informed choices about the best route for them.
The government’s Trailblazer Apprenticeships are there to give young people a pathway right to the top of their field and a new Food Engineering Trailblazer has been launched recently by the NSAFD (The National Skills Academy For Food & Drink). As with the Trailblazer Apprenticeships in the Law sector, the new food Trailblazer Apprenticeships have been developed by teams from some of the largest food manufacturing companies in the UK. So, it could be a case of ‘watch this space’ for more innovative Trailblazer Apprentices in other sectors in the future.
As well as the annual National Apprenticeship Week 2016 events that you can get involved in, local initiatives could be set up in your locality where you might work with other businesses, schools and colleges, and also industry conferences often discuss Apprenticeships, too. If you want young people onboard within your company and are offering Apprenticeship programmes, you can advertise these with E4S.
Apprenticeships are here to stay and can be of great benefit both to young people, to the wider economy and to you as an employer. Get involved and take a look at the National Apprenticeship Week 2016 map to check out events happening in your locality.