Graduates Vs apprentices: which way forward for business?

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Are graduates looking to enter the world of employment only interested in the ‘sexy stuff’ such as corporate and foreign business? Are apprentices, frankly, less choosy and concerned about being rewarded with prestigious postings?

That discussion took place at the 22nd TARGETjobs Breakfast News event on Thursday 26 April. The theme was ‘Graduates Vs Apprentices’ where speakers used the #BNews2012 tag to answer questions from the floor and online.

Philip Taylor spoke about his experiences on the BBC’s ‘The Apprentice’, and as a real-life apprentice, and how they helped him go on to launch the ‘Body Rocka’ fitness product. He said that apprentices and graduates can learn a lot from each other, and that one recruitment stream wasn’t necessarily superior to the other. However, he also pointed out that some large corporations were taking advantage of sponsored apprenticeships to train internal staff, rather than creating new positions for school leavers.

John Morewood, Senior Specialist in Emerging Talent at HSBC, explained why they have begun to do things differently, and how apprenticeships are working for the business. Marcus Body, head of research for Work Group argued that if you hire graduates you need to guarantee that they will realise their potential within your organisation. Otherwise, unless you are going to hire someone with a specific, relevant degree, do you need to hire a graduate at all?

Bryan Finn, of Business Economics Ltd, gave a short economic forecast, as well as looking at the history of internships. He pointed out that government sponsored apprenticeships have grown from less than 200,000 in 2006/7 to more than 450,000 in 2010/11, despite recent warnings about the UK economy.

Steve James, Head of Editorial at TARGETjobs says: ‘Although apprenticeships seem an increasingly popular option and a viable alternative to graduate recruitment, in some industries graduates are the only choice and are rightly the gold standard in terms of talent.’

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2 Comments - Write a Comment

  1. I’m a fan of job ladders that can accommodate recruits at whatever educational stage they join the employer and of career development that encourages each person to progress as far as their talents take them.

    That said, employers’ preferences for recruiting graduates or apprentices probably says as much about social changes as business needs.

    It used to be the case long, long ago that you took on graduates to do “thinking” jobs and apprentices for the skilled “doing” jobs. Now the best and most fortunate apprentices are increasingly given the option to complete study and “do” programmes that put them much on a level with graduates.

  2. It is an interesting one and there are a number of issues here.

    Firstly the benefits of apprenticeships are two fold, they give young people a chance to learn a skill and provide an avenue for work experience. Secondly though, they may be a great way to promote the aspirations of the Leitch Report to ensure everyone, regardless of age can get the equivalent of 5 GCSE’s. Hence it is no surprise that some employers also offer apprenticeships to develop the skills of existing employees to achieve a level 2 qualification.

    Apprentices and Graduates both have something to offer organisations, the key is to look at your organisation and work out what it can offer applicants and then decide which cohort may be of most benefit to you. A graduate may be looking to further their career quickly after 3 or more years of solid study and hence seek challenging opportunities to prove and advance themselves. Apprentice needs are more for work experience coupled with the chance to gain a qualification and as such may be prepared to accept less initial advancement opportunities as long as the qualification is supported. Apprentices may need more support in numeracy and literacy (depending on which apprenticeship they are entering), so managers need to be skilled in supporting people in this area. Graduates can be demanding and require the managers to be able to offer interesting, stretching work, which puts other pressures on the managers who also need to be skilled in this area and fairly balance the needs of graduates with existing employees. Failures by managers to support apprentices or graduates will have the same effect, people will walk!

    I don’t think it is helpful to refer to graduates as the ‘gold standard’ in talent, all people have something in the way of talent to offer, the trick for employers is to identify the best way to harness and develop that talent for their own organisational needs. Graduates, apprentices, in house development programmes, work experience and so on all add value in building talent, the key factor is the ability of managers to spot, develop and engage that talent for the good of the organisation!

    In my experience, the big sin is to offer a graduate a job which doesn’t challenge them and to expect an apprentice to work at a level which beyond their current abilities considering the level of qualification they are pursuing.

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