At Symposium Event’s Apprentices and School Leavers Conference 2019, HRreview spoke to Aaron Jeffries, apprenticeship programme lead at Covea Insurance.
HRreview: The graduate market is now very mature and highly competitive. How competitive is the apprenticeship market and how should employers sell themselves to apprentices?
Mr Jeffries: I think the apprenticeship area is becoming more and more competitive as we go on. We are still understanding what the apprenticeship levy still brings, that it does come with its challenges and key focuses. Graduates still have their place, I think these days its alongside apprenticeships. The key selling points I would share with employers for apprenticeships is to sell it to the parents. It’s about changing the stigma around apprenticeships, dispelling those myths. That is our job, saying what those benefits are.
There are strong benefits around being this credible option, an alternative to university. There are strong benefits for the individuals themselves not to be in any debt. Also for themselves to have the knowledge, skills and behaviours as they would traditionally but also the practical application for those. They can really add that tangible impact for individuals to actually see it is not just a course or programme but actually see careers as well and I think its great to see.
HRreview: What should you look for in your apprenticeship partner organisation?
Mr Jeffries: I think the keyword for me there is partner, I think sometimes its seen as very short term if you are just looking at the day to day tasks. A partner to me says about the long term possibility, the long term opportunities. I think it is regular communication with them, understanding how they work, how you work, but taking that step back I think for organisation themselves as the apprenticeship employers. I think it is really for them to understand why. Why they want apprenticeships, what those apprenticeships are actually going to bring them and how they are going to implement that as well. I think if you have those three milestones in place you will be able to sell your vision to those partner organisations and help them to really understand what you are getting out of it. It’s about that long term growth and opportunity for all parties, the learners, the employer and the provider as well. It’s working on that triangular effect and communication.
HRreview: What advice would you give to companies embarking on an apprenticeship scheme?
Mr Jeffries: I think that is linked to the previous question about understanding the ‘why’. Why do you want apprenticeships? What are they going to bring to you and how are you going to implement that. I think as a whole organisation you need to be on the same page, there needs to be buy-in, there needs to be understanding from the top-down and bottom-up. I think it is about everyone being on the same page and understanding what the apprentices are, what apprentices programmes your looking to offer and actually are they beneficial, relevant and meaningful to the business you are operating in. I think once you do have everyone on the same page, you can then really understand the selling points of apprenticeships.
HRreview: Do you feel an apprentice route is a respected option amongst candidates?
Mr Jeffries: In short, I would say no. I think the main reason for that, is that we are in a transitional phase with apprenticeships and people still are trying to understand what they are and what they bring to individuals and to the businesses. However, at Covea we are really starting to see the tangible benefits our apprentices can bring. Working on new technologies, working in different ways with different mindsets that we have not seen before and I think if we had not done that we would be very much stuck in our old way. There are a lot of different pathways for people, people are still trying to understand all the pathways.
There are about over 500 now that have been approved for delivery and I think individuals are still trying to understand what pathway to go down, the different topics they can choose. That is down to us as employers to really sell those pathways to individuals and help them realise whats out there for them and how we can support them with that. A lot of companies like Covea are beginning to see those benefits from those individuals and it’s going in the right way. As I said it’s all about changing those myths and dispelling those stigmas for apprenticeships and so far it has been extremely good and particularly for Covea we are starting to see some of our initial school leaver apprentices going on to develop on to higher apprentices and continuing their career with us and that is really great to see and hopefully we will be seeing that more in the future as well.
Darius is the editor of HRreview. He has previously worked as a finance reporter for the Daily Express. He studied his journalism masters at Press Association Training and graduated from the University of York with a degree in History.