Apprenticeships are serious business

Apprenticeships are serious business


Last week, we reported on RateMyApprenticeship’s Top 100 employers. This week, RateMyApprenticeship (owned by RMP Enterprise), is sharing findings from content analysis experts, Crescendo Consulting, who’ve delved into some 15,000 reviews submitted by apprentices over the last five years.

And it shows some significant changes to the apprenticeship experience. In the last five years, the number of UK apprentices viewing their apprenticeships as a genuine career path has increased by almost 70%, with an average of 98% of apprentices willing to recommend their apprenticeship employer to a friend.

It suggests that the decline in apprentices doing “admin” tasks and focusing on more meaningful work is allowing companies to reframe apprenticeships as a more credible, future talent pipeline. In short, both apprentices and companies are taking apprenticeships more seriously than ever before.

They’ve helpfully amalgamated the feedback from the apprentices into seven building blocks that employers should consider, when creating or amending an existing apprenticeship programme.

These are:

1. Inspiring leadership

Young people are inspired by leaders, not autocratic management. The research revealed that more than a third (37%) of the apprenticeship reviews in 2018 point to the benefit of management appreciation - an increase from 30% four years ago.

Senior managers who act as coaches can motivate and show direction to help their apprentices develop skills. Companies’ senior leadership are recognising this effect, as 42% of all apprentices who responded acknowledge them as a source of support.

2. Building skills for work and life

Apprentices have indicated how learning plays a significant part in their apprenticeship programmes (an increase of more than a quarter over five years – from 23% of apprentices to 29%). This includes a blend of soft and technical skills, including communication, software and programming. However, building confidence as a skill has shown a slight decline in the past three years, suggesting that employers should be wary of ignoring the importance of developing confidence in their young employees who are new to the world of full-time work.

3. Valuable experience versus having fun

While apprentices are enjoying certain elements of their programme – such as being part of a workplace team – they are finding comparatively less fun in other activities, such as working with customers. To address this gap, companies need to explain the growth and development opportunities presented across all of the tasks involved in the day-to-day.

4. Creating passionate people

When giving advice to others based on their apprenticeship experience, passion for their scheme was rated very highly (19%). To engender this level of passion and confidence in apprentices, companies can help them connect their everyday activities with the overall mission of the organisation. Understanding the underlying vision and values of the company will help develop that passion, leading apprentices to become ambassadors for the company. This in turn encourages others to want to work there too.

5. Cushioning the cost   

When asked whether their apprenticeship salary or package met their costs, more than a third (38%) of apprentices found their travel costs challenging. To make an apprenticeship programme more viable for the apprentice and to attract the best talent, companies need to think longer term and pay their apprentices enough to minimise financial pressures - and if they do, our research suggests they’ll get more out of the apprentice too.

6. Going beyond the day-to-day

Generation Z see themselves as global citizens and want to make a difference to society and the world around them. Interest in volunteering has increased by more than 80% (from 9% of apprentices in 2013 to 17%), whereas sport has declined from 33% to 26% over the past five years. It’s important for companies to take note of this shift and review the initiatives in place for their apprentices. This generation are all about helping others, whilst traditional workplace leisure activities are in decline.

7. Having someone by your side

Using workplace mentors to support apprentices is at its highest level in five years. However, over the whole research period only 14% of apprentices felt the mentoring aspect of their programmes was well-managed, behind training (50%) and induction (31%). Mentors remain an undervalued component of a successful apprenticeship so it’s important for companies to allocate more of their resources to this element.

They’ve also provided some useful sector comparisons around HR and management support, as well as around the learning opportunities they receive.

First up, who’s providing the best HR support for apprentices? Based on an index where 100 represents the highest proportion of apprentices in any of our research findings, those working in business roles receive the most support from the HR team (a score of 100). Each scoring in the 90s for HR support are companies in health, science and pharma, IT and telecoms (both 96), engineering (95) and legal/law (93). Scoring just above the all-sector average (74) for HR support is the accounting and finance sector (76) while apprentices in banking score their sector 55 and FMCG/Retail achieves 37 points. The leisure, tourism and hospitality sector comes last with a score of 19.

And what about management support? Using the same index, business apprentices receive the highest level of management support – something our research revealed as the most important factor for making apprentices feel valued.

Two sectors follow closely behind business (health, science and pharma at 99 and IT/telecoms at 96) while banking and FMCG/retail both score 89, well above-average where the all-sector average is 78. Accounting and Finance achieves that average score while engineering is just below at 73. Leisure tourism and hospitality is 8 points below average (65) while the legal sector rates only 16 in the index for management support.

And finally, the learning opportunities offered by sector. Apprentices in engineering cite the highest levels of opportunity for learning (100 in the index), with their counterparts in health, science and pharma the next closest at 82 points. A relatively major gap in learning opportunities follows, with FMCG/retail scoring 66 and then a further drop to companies scoring below the all-sector average of 53 (IT/telecoms at 48, legal/law at 47, accounting and finance at 45 and business at 41). Opportunities for apprentice learning in the banking sector are just over half the all-sector average (27) while leisure, tourism and hospitality ranks at 21 points.

Oliver Sidwell, co-founder and director at RMP Enterprise said, “Apprentices are increasingly treating their experience as planning for the road ahead and acknowledging it as a worthwhile career choice in its own right.

“The growth in this sentiment among apprentices is a strong indication to employers that apprenticeships are a valuable investment for attracting the best talent. This is happening at a time when university applications have fallen by three percent and are at the lowest level since 2009*.”

* Deadline Applicant Statistics: deadline Thursday 18 January 2018. UCAS Analysis and Research, published on Monday 5 February 2018 at


Thursday, 15 November 2018

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