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Making the most of apprenticeships

18 January, 2019 Reading: 3:27 mins
Simon Fryer

By Simon

Making the most of apprenticeships

As an employer, we have explored a number of routes for our entry-level positions. Graduates are the standard candidates for these roles, but we’re interested in people who have followed different educational routes too.

We offer internships both for graduates and non-graduates, which are ideal for people who want to understand the business better and work with different teams before the possibility of getting a permanent position. And we also offer apprenticeships, which I’m a big fan of. We’ve had two apprentices who have gone on to be valuable members of staff, including Lacey Thornton, who started out as a Finance and Administration Apprentice and is now a Senior Account executive.

I think that apprenticeships are underrated in this country. We would actually have more apprentices working here at KISS, if we could get the quality of candidates. Part of the problem is that the providers don’t have enough familiarity with recruitment, so don’t understand the needs of the company. Perhaps there is an opportunity here to open up the market a bit.

Apprenticeships are much more common in Continental Europe, particularly Germany where they are valued by employers, apprentices and parents alike. We have had German employees and interns working at KISS and their level of core skills, not to mention language skills, has always impressed me.

The German model

Germany is still one of Europe’s main manufacturing powerhouses and home to big engineering firms like Siemens, Volkswagen, Bosch and ThussenKrupp. And many of these companies rely on apprentices coming through to provide the next generation of engineers. Siemens, for example, provides a three-and-a-half year apprenticeship based in Berlin, that sees apprentices study at the Siemens Professional Education Vocational School and undertake practical sessions at its training centre. This can lead to a career in mechatronics or electrical engineering with Siemens or another employer.

In this country, Network Rail offers a great engineering apprenticeship, which sees a lot of competition for places. Apprenticeships are for three years, leading to an NVQ3 in railway engineering and careers in electrification and plant, overhead power, signalling or telecoms. In a similar vein, aircraft engineering firm Marshall offers advanced apprenticeships in aircraft maintenance, land systems and manufacturing support.

But it’s not just aspiring engineers who can benefit from apprenticeships, they can be a great entry route into public relations, marketing or business. With university fees now so expensive, apprenticeships need to be promoted by employers, colleges and the government as being a high-quality route into employment to rival a university education.

In fact, in the UK, the profile of apprentices is completely different to Germany. Most apprenticeships are taken up in health, public services and care, with business, administration and law a close second. Engineering and manufacturing come fourth after retail and commercial enterprise. Arts, media and publishing have one of the lowest take-up rates.

Links to further education colleges

I would like to see apprenticeships have stronger relationships with FE colleges, as small companies like ours cannot replicate the sort of training that a college can give to students on day release. What businesses are good at doing is on-the-job training and mentoring. But small companies – often with a single apprentice at a time, or apprentices all working towards different qualifications – cannot provide a classroom-learning experience like a college can. This is something that providers should look at for the apprenticeships that don’t currently feature classroom studies. German apprenticeships usually feature a strong element of classroom learning, alongside on-the-job training – this may be part of what’s missing.

I look forward to receiving future apprentices at KISS and I ask colleges, businesses, schools and parents to join me in championing apprenticeship schemes so that more young people will take advantage of them in the future.

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