July/August/September 2020

There’s never been a more important time to employ an apprentice

There have been some incredibly challenging times in recent months in the apprenticeship sector. Like the vast majority of organisations we have had to adapt quickly to new ways of working in order to support the employers and apprentices we work with. However, as we transition back to our normal proactive ways, we can reflect on a number of amazing positives that we have seen over this turbulent period. Firstly, as a result of the huge amounts of hard work in recent years to raise the profile of apprenticeships, we have had more interest from young people than ever before in becoming an apprentice.

More people are recognising that gaining career defining skills and knowledge, while supported by an employer, is a very attractive proposition and an alternative to full time education.

Secondly, although the details are still to come, the very fact that the Prime Minister himself announced a guaranteed apprenticeship scheme would be vital in the social and economic bounce back, was a pivotal moment for the sector. Highlighting the essential role apprenticeships play in society, by enabling social mobility and economic prosperity, whilst fulfilling an essential role in developing the skills the nation needs to move forward economically.

Finally, the way in which the sector as a whole and certainly our amazing staff have responded to the digital transition has been superb. In a matter of days in late March, we moved to 100% digital interaction with our 1,300 apprentices. In the last 14 weeks we have delivered more learning and support to apprentices than ever before. We have averaged over 700 learning, assessment and support interventions a week, a truly outstanding achievement.

Who gave you a chance?

However, there can be little doubt that we face enormous challenges moving forward in the apprenticeship sector. The economic challenges we face across Greater Manchester and the United Kingdom will impact the opportunities available for young people, both those currently in apprenticeships and those seeking to be an apprentice.

This is where we are calling on business leaders across the region to think long and hard about their apprenticeship commitments over the next few months.

We have already seen some fantastic examples of businesses re-enforcing their commitments and creating new opportunities for apprentices. But we hope many more will do the same.

Roy Cavanagh MBE, a huge advocate and supporter of Apprenticeships at Salford City College, and the wider apprenticeship sector, has a great challenging question that he often poses to his contemporaries in business; ‘Who gave you a chance?’.

Roy received his MBE for services to training. He has worked for Seddon for over 50 years and employed thousands of apprentices in his time. His point is clear, at some point in our lives, someone has given us all a chance to shine and develop a career. Now is the time for us all to do what we can and give apprentices a chance to shine too.

The social impact of a thriving apprenticeship sector is obvious. More and more people learning, working and earning. This can only be a positive. However, as a business community, let us not employ apprentices for this reason alone.

Now more than ever, your organisation needs talented, committed and highly skilled people to drive your business forward in the challenging years ahead. Apprentices acquire cutting edge skills, on new apprenticeship standards which have been designed for businesses by businesses.

Of particular concern in recent months has been the significant decrease in apprenticeship opportunities for generation Y, or millennials as they are commonly referred to. Let us not forget this generation are the first in history to have grown up totally immersed in a world of digital technology.

Their understanding and perception of the opportunities presented by technology is evidently clear. Let us hope they give some of us a chance to catch up and utilise their knowledge and skills to drive forward our businesses.

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