National Apprenticeship Week: The Importance of Apprentices

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Ellie Macdonald recently started at City-REDI / WMREDI as a Digitial Marketing Apprentice. For National Apprenticeship Week, Ellie talks about why she decided to become an apprentice and the significance of apprenticeships for the workplace.

Apprenticeships help you get your foot in the door in a work environment that you want to be in. They can help you gain experience that you might not get at University or other educational pathways and allow you to create connections in the workplace. Having experienced both university and apprenticeship life, there are some clear differences in them both.

Apprenticeships have become a significant route into the workplace. Between August 2021 and October 2021, 130,200 people started apprenticeships in England according to the Government website.

You may not get the university independence of living and nightlife, but you can earn whilst you learn and get real experience of independence in the workplace. As an apprentice, you learn skills and gain experience that employers want and need. You handle your own tasks, allowing you to be independent and be responsible and proud of the work that you are producing. By getting personalised support with any task you are set, you build workplace relationships with the people you are working with and have fun along the way.

For example, in the second week of my apprenticeship, I was involved in an ITN Production Project with the West Midlands Growth Company, showcasing what WMREDI is all about and how great Birmingham is. This is just one of the amazing opportunities I have been given in my first month.

ITN productions filming at The Exchange, University of Birmingham

It not only has an impact on the person carrying out the apprenticeship as it advances their skills in a particular area but also enables employers to have an extra set of hands.

Ellie Macdonald:

Taking an apprenticeship after coming out of university always seemed backwards to me. but it has shown me that I learn better on the job. The opportunities available to me within the workplace are endless. After university, every job I applied for wanted marketing experience which I did not have, so taking on a role where I can earn whilst I learn was the best path for me to take. I can ask the silly questions that I felt uncomfortable asking in a huge lecture hall. I get the one to one time with my manager to talk through assignments and to go to seminars and events that will help me enhance my learning. This was the best. you gain respect within the team and I have already made so many valuable connections.

Over 250,000 businesses across the UK currently employ an apprentice, showing that apprenticeships can increase productivity and improve business performance. Recruiting apprentices enables employers to fill the skills gaps that exist within their current workforce as apprentices begin to learn sector-specific skills from their first day. Hiring an apprentice is a productive and effective way to grow talent and develop a motivated, skilled, and qualified workforce.

  • 86% of employers said apprenticeships helped them develop skills relevant to their organisation
  • 78% of employers said apprenticeships helped them improve productivity
  • 74% of employers said apprenticeships helped them improve the quality of their product or service
  • Employers say that qualified apprentices are 15% more employable than those with other qualifications
  • Apprenticeships boost productivity to businesses by on average £214 per week
  • 90% of apprentices stay in employment with over 70% staying with the same employer
  • Nearly a quarter of former apprentices are promoted within a year of finishing their apprenticeship
Academic Impacts

Having spoken with Professor Anne Green and Dr Abigail Taylor, I got an insight into the effect apprentices have on businesses and the issues facing young people getting into work.

Professor Anne Green:

“Although the Covid-19 pandemic has had widespread impacts on businesses and people, apprenticeships are important for employers in helping meet their skills needs. This is especially so given current labour and skills shortages in many sectors and with the need to build skills for the future. One issue facing young people, in particular, is that the employment and skills system is complicated and fragmented, so it is often difficult to navigate and find out what opportunities are available.”

I found my apprenticeship by looking for jobs on the University of Birmingham Jobs Page. It was an easy application form to follow and allowed me to express my interest further at the interview.

Dr Abigail Taylor:

City-REDI research into skills systems in the West Midlands shows how universities across the West Midlands are developing higher-level applied skills through offering higher-level apprenticeship programmes. Increasing cooperation between Further Education and Higher Education in jointly delivering degree apprenticeships offers opportunities to expand this further. It is vital that education providers work with employers to ensure apprenticeships respond to their workforce development needs and to help them to understand the support available to employ apprentices.”

Whilst I have only just begun my journey as an apprentice, I’m excited about where it will take me. From a national perspective, Apprenticeships provide an excellent route for anyone into employment, as well as helping employers to enhance their company skills.

Ellie Macdonald, Digital Marketing Apprentice, City-REDI / WMREDI, University of Birmingham. 

The views expressed in this analysis post are those of the authors and not necessarily those of City-REDI / WMREDI or the University of Birmingham.

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