Jenny Taylor – Presenting the business case for apprenticeships

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Early CareersThe case for apprenticeship schemes, figures suggest, is entirely positive. 89 percent of firms say that they make their business more productive. But the benefits are not one-sided, they offer new skills and the chance of progression to participants.

This month’s relaunch of the government’s “Get In Go Far” campaign to advertise the benefits of apprenticeships is designed to inform and inspire young people to consider apprenticeships, traineeships and work experience as valid and credible routes to a rewarding career.

Apprenticeships can still be viewed as the “bridesmaid” of Early Professionals’ programmes but over the past five years a wealth of new opportunities have opened up to school leavers which provide a wide range of fulfilling long term career prospects, without the need for a degree qualification.

The business case for apprenticeships is compelling. 89% of employers say they make their business more productive. Apprenticeships also bring opportunity; to attract new talent, offer progression and develop a motivated, skilled and qualified workforce. They can also help lower recruitment costs, 75% of apprentice employers have found this to be the case and 80% say that apprenticeships will play a bigger part in their future recruitment plans.

At IBM, we’ve been offering apprenticeships since 2010 when we launched an Advanced Apprenticeship programme. While graduates have always been a source of new blood for our industry, with overall employment growth for technology industries predicted to be 3.2% between 2015-25, we knew we needed to tap into new channels to fill the ever-increasing tech skills gap in the UK.

Our initial vision for our programme was to ensure that our apprentices contributed to the business immediately and then developed into future leaders of IBM. All stakeholders were actively involved in fulfilling this vision right from the head of our organization.
Our Advanced Apprenticeship programme proved so successful that we subsequently increased the scope of our offerings with a Higher Apprentice qualification and have now added a Degree Apprenticeship programme which is open to both existing and new apprentices. This expansion is proof of our view of the positive benefits apprenticeships provide for us and six years in, we are more than delighted with the success of our programme. It’s a key element of our overall workforce strategy.
The Top 3 benefits apprentices have brought to our business

1.Our apprentices are a vibrant new channel of technical resource to fill a skills gap. Our industry faces a serious challenge in recruiting sufficient, high quality employees: the prime impetus for starting our apprenticeship scheme and this has proved a very effective policy. Our first cohorts have now all qualified for promotion into the IBM IT Specialist profession, putting them on the same career path as all other technical professionals in IBM.
2. Our apprentices have proved to be loyal employees. With the benefit of training, they are able to perform real roles within our major client accounts. They are highly sought after resource and are keen, enthusiastic, willing to learn, committed and very loyal with high retention rates.
3. Our apprentices are our leaders of the future. They were the first professionals to be accredited on the British Computing Society Register of IT Technicians and many have won external awards, proving the high calibre of school leavers we have recruited over the past five years. Apprenticeships are excellent way for us of ensuring that technology moves along with the next generation.

Many companies are now thinking seriously about setting up new apprenticeship programmes and employer ambassador networks are very active in providing advice and support to these new employers.
Top 3 tips for employers thinking of taking on an apprentice

1.Think about what level of skill you hope a new apprentice will achieve. This will enable you to decide upon the type of apprenticeship scheme you wish to offer.
2.Research first. The National Apprenticeship Service will be able to put you in touch with other employers in your industry who already have apprentices. Seek guidance on their apprenticeship frameworks, learning providers and how to create your own programme.
3.Recruit locally. Apprenticeships are a fantastic way of bringing bright young people from local schools into your business. It’s critical that all students are aware of the full range of opportunities open to them upon leaving school, and it’s equally important that employers understand this too, if they are to fully benefit from the depth of talent pool.

While more and more businesses are introducing apprenticeships, a concerted effort is still required across all industries to meet the future demands of industry, as well as to make sure these apprentices gain the skills they need to actively contribute to Britain’s digital future.

By acknowledging successful apprentice programmes for what they are – invaluable, fresh and insightful ways of remaining inclusive and contemporary
– businesses will be able to dismantle long-held social and institutional perceptions of apprenticeships as the ‘poor relation’ of university education.

I’d like to conclude with a quotation from one of our apprentices “There is so much opportunity to develop yourself. In 3 years I have gone from knowing nothing to advanced knowledge in industry leading areas.”

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