Getting apprenticeships right: what does the workforce of tomorrow think?

It’s National Apprenticeship Week! A week designed to celebrate apprenticeships and the positive impact they have on individuals, employers and the wider economy. This is all great stuff and I’m pleased we are shouting about it, but what I’m really interested in is understanding young people’s needs and thought processes while they’re considering choosing an apprenticeship. What do young people want out of an apprenticeship and (for most) their first full time job?

3 top tips for a better apprenticeship experience

As a former apprentice and now apprenticeship ambassador at the City & Guilds Group, talking to young people about career development is a bit of a passion for me. This is because I was in their shoes not so long ago; I had finished A-Levels and had no idea of where, what or how to start a career. Through attending conferences, expos and a whole host of events I’ve noticed some common questions young people ask before they apply for jobs. As employers we should be trying to help answers those questions from the application process to life after an apprenticeship. Below are a few simple tips to make the whole experience better for not only the apprentices you hire but also for you as their employer.

  1. Explain what you are actually looking for in an apprentice.

    This first tip probably sounds very easy to do: just a normal job advertisement, right?  No, not quite. Put yourself in the applicant’s position. This might be the first job description they have ever read, so make it easier for them. Explain the knowledge, skills and competencies as simply as possible. Maybe provide an example of a typical day in the life for an apprentice at your organisation. Make sure they know exactly what your apprenticeship entails so that they can make an informed decision to apply for the position. 

  2. Don’t underestimate what applicants don’t know yet.

    You now have your apprentice and it’s their first week on the job. Have you sat down and thought about what they need to know before they start? On the first day of my apprenticeship I was asked to set up my Outlook account.  What the hell is Outlook?  I was totally adept at Twitter and Facebook but I’d never used Outlook before because I’d never had that opportunity in a work environment. Lots of things that I now take for granted: how to conduct yourself in a meeting, how to contribute to a brainstorm, how to prioritise my workload were uncharted territory for me back then, and it’s probably the same for your new recruit.  Make sure you assess and accommodate for this in their onboarding process.

  3. Are you providing the emotional support they might need?

    Your new apprentice might be feeling unsure and nervous, so how can you help them? Is there someone you can assign as a buddy/mentor? Someone they can shadow and see how that individual works. For me this experience was invaluable. Having a mentor allowed me to ask questions and build the foundations for how I approached my work, which I still use to this day.

What happens next?

After speaking to young people about apprenticeships, it became clear to me that the career development after an apprenticeship was a key part of their decision making process. 71%˟ of apprentices stay with the same employer and candidates want to know if there is a future with your company and where their apprenticeship could take them. As their employer it’s important that you talk to your apprentice about that journey. They might not be aware of the different career pathways their apprenticeship could open up and what next steps are available. I did my apprenticeship in marketing, so with the help of my manager, I was able to decide which specialisms I wanted to pursue and what training I needed to get there.

If you are planning to take on your apprentices once their course has finished, have you thought about their transition? Make sure it’s a gradual step, not a plunge into the deep end on day one, and talk to your apprentices about how they’ll move from one role to the next.

So there you have it: some really simple yet important tips you should be considering when it comes to preparing and supporting your apprentices. The workforce of tomorrow is very eager to start on the employment ladder - it just needs a little bit more encouragement and guidance to get there.

If you're looking for a simplier way to deliver, manage and track apprenticeships, make sure you check out how leading companies like Compass and KFC transformed their programmes. 

Find out more...

˟ Toolkit for employers, apprentices and MPs government guide.

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