Back in 2012, government advisor Doug Richards highlighted ‘the lack of impartial information and advice for young people considering apprenticeships’ in his Richard Review. Ten months after the report was published, we launched RateMyApprenticeship.co.uk to provide this impartial information and advice through peer-to-peer reviews written by young people themselves about their apprenticeships schemes.
Today, the website hosts over 15,000 reviews, which are fundamental in helping young people across the UK learn, understand and explore their future career options. With over five years worth of data, we partnered with an agency to analyse the reviews, providing the most comprehensive research ever done into the apprenticeship experience.
Our findings reveal that the number of UK apprentices viewing their apprenticeships as a genuine career path has increased by almost 70% over the last five years. And, on average, 98% of apprentices are willing to recommend their apprenticeship employer to a friend.
The research analysis has also given us an insight into seven building blocks companies need to run quality and successful apprenticeship programmes. These are:
- Inspiring leadership
Young people are inspired by leaders: our research revealed that more than a third (37%) of the apprenticeship reviews in 2018 point to the benefit of management appreciation – an increase from 30% four years ago.
Senior managers who act as coaches can motivate and show direction to help their apprentices develop skills. Companies’ senior leadership are recognising this effect, as 42% of apprentices acknowledge them as a source of support.
- Building skills for work and life
Apprentices said learning plays a significant part in their apprenticeship programmes (an increase of more than a quarter over five years – from 23% of apprentices to 29%). This includes a blend of soft and technical skills, including communication, software and programming.
- Valuable experience versus having fun
While apprentices are enjoying certain elements of their programme – such as being part of a workplace team – they are finding comparatively less fun in other activities, such as working with customers. To address this gap, companies need to explain the growth and development opportunities presented across all of the tasks involved day-to-day.
- Creating passionate people
When giving advice to others based on their apprenticeship experience, passion for their scheme was rated very highly (19%). To engender this level of passion and confidence in apprentices, companies can help them connect their everyday activities with the overall mission of the organisation. Understanding the underlying vision and values of the company will help develop that passion, leading apprentices to become ambassadors for the company.
- Cushioning the cost
More than a third (38%) of apprentices in our research found their travel costs challenging. To make an apprenticeship programme more viable for the apprentice and to attract the best talent, companies need to think longer term and pay their apprentices enough to minimise financial pressures, which means they’ll get more out of the apprentice too.
- Going beyond the day-to-day
Generation Z see themselves as global citizens and want to make a difference to society and the world around them. Interest in volunteering has increased by more than 80% (from 9% of apprentices in 2013 to 17%), whereas sport has declined from 33% to 26% over the past five years. It’s important for companies to take note of this shift and review the initiatives in place for their apprentices.
- Having someone by your side
Using workplace mentors to support apprentices is at its highest level in five years.
However, over the whole research period only 14% of apprentices felt the mentoring aspect of their programmes was well-managed, behind training (50%) and induction (31%). Mentors remain an undervalued component of a successful apprenticeship so it’s important for companies to allocate more of their resources to this element.
BAE Systems, this year’s winner of the RateMyApprenticeship Top 100 Apprenticeship Employers 2018-19, (based on reviews from June 2017 – May 2018) has also seen the value of these building blocks in its own apprenticeship programme success.
The company goes beyond the day-to-day for apprentices, providing courses around financial planning, opportunities to get involved in their STEM ambassador scheme in local schools and colleges, and charity challenges, such as the Apprentice Innovation Challenge. This takes place every two years, with teams of apprentices competing to design and build a device that helps solve real problems faced by a UK charity.
One of the building blocks shown by the research to be at a five-year high is the importance of mentors. This is part of the BAE Systems approach, providing mentors and buddies so apprentices are supported from the very first moment they join the programme.
Companies who follow these seven building blocks will help them attract the best apprenticeship talent and most importantly, retain it.
Lizzie Brock is Marketing Director at RateMyApprenticeship.co.uk, a resource for students, schools and parents whose aim is to educate young people about their career options, and inspire them to take an exciting next step after they leave school or college. Learn more here.