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If you thought the age of apprenticeships was over, think again

By 30th July 2018

If you thought the age of apprenticeships was over you should possibly think again. For the Scottish Government a modern apprenticeship is any combination of paid work and learning. Here are some raw numbers to mull over: in 2017 to 2018, 27,145 modern apprenticeships (MA) started in Scotland; in addition there were 270 graduate apprenticeships embarked upon. Over the same period there were 30,845 modern apprenticeships in place, which represented an increase of 1,399 over the same period for the previous year. In 2017-2018, 20,309 apprentices achieved their stated goals within the apprenticeship scheme. It would seem that modern apprenticeships are alive and thriving.


Apprenticeships and SMEs

 In many respects modern apprenticeships are an ideal fit for the small to medium business. Research suggests that the presence of apprentices within the workplace improves productivity and morale, moreover because the employer has a direct hand in the training of the apprentice the end result is a member of staff who understands your business well and also understands your customers. There has been a tendency to assume that more and more workplace roles required a graduate-level applicant, this isn’t true, apprenticeships have a structured format, graduate apprenticeships provide work-based learning up to Masters degree level. Many graduates are working in non-graduate roles, there is evidence of a skills mismatch within the UK workplace.


For the young person seeking employment and training, apprenticeships can be a valuable first step into the jobs market, and there is a suggestion that some applicants have chosen to pursue apprenticeships over higher education. It is certainly the case that the idea of earning while learning is attractive in an age of mounting student debt and the old idea that apprenticeships were only suitable for those looking to work within trades or ‘traditional’ industries is simply no longer the case.


Scope of Modern Apprenticeships

 Modern apprenticeships are available in nearly every sector of industry and commerce these days, among those offering places are companies such as BAe Systems, Capgemini, J.P. Morgan, Glaxo Smith-Kline and, top of the list in current ratings, Unilever. Some of these are perhaps traditional engineering industries where apprenticeships have a long history; JP Morgan and Capgemini hardly fall into that description.


SMEs stand to benefit as there is financial assistance available when taking on apprentices and Skills Development Scotland, the body responsible for overseeing modern apprenticeships north of the border claim that companies are currently seeing retention rates of 92% for all MA “graduates”. No company likes to invest in staff only to lose them, finding ways to improve loyalty and retention is highly desirable. This view tends to be echoed by employers; 96% of those surveyed stated that MAs were more able to do their job well. They also praised MAs for improving productivity, staff morale, service and product quality. Satisfaction amongst surveyed apprentices is also high with over 92% of those asked saying that they would recommend the modern apprenticeship scheme.


Facing the future?

 For years there has been an undercurrent of complaint from industry that the education system has failed to provide school leavers with the skills required by business; by engaging an apprentice you not only gain an employee but you actively contribute to the education of the next generation, making a positive contribution to your own business and to wider society. Other western industrial nations, most notably Germany, rely heavily on apprenticeships to improve the quality of their workforce and to boost productivity and quality. In these uncertain times, any advantage a business can accrue is to be welcomed.


Recent developments

 In a recent announcement, the Scottish Government announced significant changes to the availability of funding for workplace development: details of this announcement from the Scottish Government can be found here.


More information on the various types of apprenticeships available today can be found on the Skills Development Scotland website.

Modern Apprenticeships

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