Stereotypes surrounding apprenticeships have come a long way in the last ten to fifteen years. In the current workplace they are no longer seen simply as the route for a fresh faced youth starting out on the career ladder, but as a new approach to up-skilling a workforce.
Management apprenticeships - in which apprentices learn on the job about leadership and management techniques - are on the rise. Soft skills are core to the learning. Decision making, effective time management, accepting responsibility, work prioritisation, team work and project management to name a few.
'Reap rewards in future'
Alan Sugar's show The Apprentice has paved the way on many levels for this mind set change. His crop of talent, while nearly always young and fresh faced are not school leavers - they have a few years under their belt in the world of work, but want to move up and need some guidance on how they can learn a new set of skills. They are looking to an organisation who can invest in them now, so that the employer can reap the rewards in the future.
Often used as a progression route i.e. going from a technical skills apprenticeship to a more strategically focused role, apprenticeships are key for equipping the future workforce with core skills. Research by the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES) shows that there will be 500,000 new managers by 2020. These managers need skills training and higher level apprenticeships are a superb career development opportunity.
The National Apprenticeship Service says advanced apprenticeships are growing faster than their more basic bedfellows. Vacancies for higher-level apprenticeships have increased by 41% year on year, followed by advanced apprenticeships (32% growth) and intermediate apprenticeships (19% growth).
It is National Apprenticeship Week this week (9-13 March) and for the Institute of Leadership & Management, the fate of management apprenticeships is a key topic of conversation due to the limitations on funding. We are at crucial point where any in-roads made in public perceptions will go back twenty years if the change in funding regulation is not communicated well.
In the autumn statement Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, announced that apprenticeship funding will be given to employers rather than training providers. Currently, training providers work with employers to identify suitable apprenticeship candidates and then take on the administrative burden of claiming funding and the responsibility for the programme's quality. The Chancellor also revealed that in the future employers will need to make a significant cash contribution to apprentices' external training costs.
Companies who utilise management apprentices stand to gain a huge amount - they are developing the next generation of leaders and managers. Staff feel fully supported in their training and are less likely to take their new skills elsewhere, this not only aids the employer but the economy as a whole. If funding limitations or cuts happen they may restrict this type of progression.
In the wider education and skills debate currently raging in the UK, apprenticeships are certainly in the spotlight. One of the key take away messages is that higher level management apprenticeship funding is going to be cut, or limited, for those over 24. The level of funding cuts is unclear, and with a general election looming it will remain unclear, but 2017 has been mentioned for the change to take effect.
We cannot talk about these different types of apprenticeship and the appetite for people to use them without connecting them as a key enabler to allow our ageing population in the UK to have the opportunity to remain and get back into the workplace. According to the Office for National Statistics, employment is increasing three times quicker among the over-65s than for workers aged 16-64. Instead of slowing down as they near retirement age, more and more over-60s are learning a new trade as apprentices.
Employers are becoming increasingly wise to the fact that talent has no age limit and they are creating opportunities for older apprentices. Barclays Bank recently announced it is launching an apprenticeship scheme for the over-50s, giving older workers a chance at a new career in banking. Current funding policy dictates that older people should look elsewhere for career and development opportunities but UK plc is pushing back - Barclays is a great example of this.
For generations apprenticeships have been a recognised as a way to get into and progress in professions. If the upward trend we can statistically see is left to continue then management apprenticeships are a key facilitator to address how the future managers can be equipped with the key skills they need in the workplace. But if the funding limitations go ahead and support is not given to businesses then rather than increasing apprenticeship numbers, figures will radically decline and leave apprenticeships solely in the domain of organisations who can afford to take on the scheme- leaving old misconceptions to come to the fore.