This week the Department for Education released their Statistical First Release on the number of Apprenticeship starts from 1st May to 31st July 2017, the first quarter after the introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy. I was disappointed to learn that during this period the number of apprenticeship starts has actually decreased by 61% over the same period last year.
At London Youth, I lead on our employability programme, Talent Match London, supporting 2,500 18-24 year olds furthest from the labour market into sustainable employment. Over the past four years of our working with employers to deliver Talent Match London we have learnt a lot about what makes apprenticeships work for young people and welcome the opportunity to share this knowledge with those looking to improve their apprenticeship programme, or to offer one for the first time.
It is vital that young people can make informed choices about which apprenticeship is right for them. Our experience has shown that apprenticeships work better when employers offer taster days or short work placements before expecting young people to commit to an 18 month to 2 year apprenticeship. Informed apprentices are committed apprentices, leading to fewer drop-outs and a much higher return on investment for employers.
London Youth has been working with employers through Movement to Work to help them offer effective taster and trial programmes and to create short promotional videos that help young people compare their options.
We would encourage the government to allow some levy funding to be used for taster and trial programmes. This would mean informed and committed apprentices and better results for employers.
Apprenticeships have to offer real opportunities to be successful. Apprenticeships can complement continuous professional development or graduate recruitment, but they are a distinct offering. Employers should keep in mind that an apprenticeship should prepare an apprentice not just for the current position, but for a similar or more advanced role elsewhere in the industry.
For apprenticeships to work, the training and study aspect has to be taken seriously. This means giving apprentices the resources, time, and space to learn. This can be as simple as making sure that the learning away from the job is respected as much as training on-the-job.
Adaptive to needs
Effective apprenticeships that deliver for employers and apprentices must be adaptive to the unique needs of apprentices.
The minimum rate for apprentices is only £3.50, which is almost a third of the London living wage. Employers may need to ask themselves whether what they are offering is realistic. How are my apprentices getting to work, or paying for rent?
Small changes may make a big difference for apprentices. For example, employers could consider offering advances in cases of hardship so that apprentices can manage transport, clothing, or other work-related expenses until the first month’s pay packet arrives.
We have also seen the success of part-time apprenticeships. These allow apprentices to supplement their income and to meet the other commitments in their lives, such as child-care.
Case for apprenticeships
At London Youth, we believe in apprenticeships so much that we use them too.
We believe that informed, meaningful, and adaptive apprenticeships are an important avenue for young people to learn and gain practical skills, get on-the-job experience, and to enter the labour market. They benefit employers as a way to access a pipeline of committed staff, who can be trained to the needs of the business. Apprenticeships also benefit us all, as one of the many paths to getting motivated young people into their chosen career.