27/09/2013 09:45 BST | Updated 27/11/2013 05:12 GMT

Why I Believe Apprentices Are the Future and Not a Simple Alternative to Graduate Recruits

Since starting in my new role this July, I've been really impressed by the standard and attitude of our apprentices. Not only do they have the expected focus on their education and skills development, they are also career focused and actively engaging in wider business activities that supplement their personal development.

At the recent contract signing for our 2013 intake of apprentices at Broughton, it was the reaction of the parents I found surprising. Amongst those parents in attendance there was a clear sense of pride and enthusiasm that their sons and daughters had focussed on a career path that had enabled them to come and work with a major blue chip company.

It's easy to understand their enthusiasm. Our apprentices are the future of both the company and the UK Aerospace industry in general, and they are a very worthwhile investment. They join us because they want to get started "on the career ladder" at the earliest opportunity and we give them that opportunity plus they can "earn while they learn". But our apprentices are also a significant investment - around £75,000 to train a craft apprentice and £98,000 to train as an undergraduate apprentice.

It's not an investment any business would make if they didn't both believe in their apprentices' future - and have some hard evidence to support this belief.

We can firmly attribute Airbus's rate of growth and success, to be (in no small part) due to the success of our apprentice programmes. We have virtually no dropouts from our Apprentices as they're completing the programme and 99.9% go on to work for the company showing an excellent retention rate. We're extremely proud that around 70% of the staff members on the Broughton plants management structure are former apprentices.

With businesses like ours firmly showing how apprentices pave the way for a successful business model, I still find it ironic that many of the people I meet in the wider education and careers development roles still think of an Apprenticeship as an alternative to further education or university. But we are changing that perception. All of the apprentices who join our programmes - more than 80 this year at our sites in Filton near Bristol and Broughton North Wales - will complete their programme with a qualification that provide the basis of their future careers. No longer does an Apprenticeship provide just a vocational qualification, more than 50% of the 2013 intake are destined to acquire a foundation or bachelor's degree on our Higher or Undergraduate programmes.

And the other 50% of our apprentices - who don't go on to do a degree - are just as invaluable. It's about understanding the roles and needs within your company and rewarding the right candidates in the relevant roles. The standard of candidate we now recruit for our vocational based programmes is extremely high, and has to be. The products we make are becoming increasingly complex and as such we need the best apprentices available to ensure they are able to learn and achieve the vocational and academic standards required to maintain our strict quality standards.

Whatever our level of new recruits, a career with in a global company of this size doesn't just stop after the Apprenticeship, far from it. The potential opportunities that are open to our future talent are virtually endless. The business openly promotes internal mobility for its employees, with employees able to progress into any number of career paths, whether this be production related, technical, or managerial roles in any of the different countries around the world where Airbus holds a presence.

This long term strategy to our recruitment, really is providing a real future for every apprentice and the growth of our business.