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Be an Advocate for Apprenticeships

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HR Advisor Lucy Morrison at Clear Channel discusses being an Advocate for Apprenticeships.

When the apprenticeship levy was introduced in 2017, I was sceptical. I didn’t know how exactly this concept would fit within a corporate organisation. I’ll admit that my initial thought was, “but an apprenticeship in what?”. Since then, I have been given a chance to work closely alongside the introduction of apprenticeship schemes in two organisations and it is something that I fully promote and support.

As someone that went to university, I can’t say that I’ve had first-hand experience of completing an apprenticeship. I was given the classic advice by my sixth-form college, “go to University and do something ‘generic’ and you will be able to anything you like at the end of it”. I was promised all these opportunities, but the reality was really quite different. I’d finished university with a degree in Psychology but very soon after, I found myself back at home living with my parents, but now with even less of an idea of what I wanted to do. Oh, and to top it off, I was right in the middle of a global recession. I started serial-applying to hundreds of jobs a day, struggling to even get a part-time job in my local pub. I felt confused, let down and reality hit like a big slap in the face. My generic degree is getting me nowhere.

Nearly 15 years on from when I left college, I believe that younger people are starting to have a wider variety of options, which is amazing. The apprenticeship levy has almost forced businesses to be more open-minded about where they can source their talent, giving young people a viable option as an alternative to university. If that option had been there for me, I probably would have taken it. Why get myself into tens of thousands worth of debt for a degree I am emphatically not utilising, when I could be debt-free whilst learning and earning?

However, the apprenticeship levy has not solved everything. In the first year, employers in England spent less than 10% of their levy funds. So why is this? I believe that a big problem can often be getting stakeholders onboard with the whole concept. I’ve often found that line mangers aren’t always aware of the apprenticeship levy or that apprentices can even study business-related, relevant courses. I’m aware that there are misconceptions surrounding apprentices such as, they didn’t finish school (or didn’t do well), they will always be of school-leaver age and that studying whilst working will mean that they are not capable of doing the job to the required standard.

I do, however, somewhat understand where these misconceptions were formed. When researching the history of apprentices, the term ‘apprentice’ has been used for hundreds of years within the UK. Back in the 1960/70’s, apprenticeships were predominantly used for school leavers for practical skills in certain trades such as engineering, mechanics or electronics. Fast forward to today, you can do an apprenticeship in practically anything, which are often equivalent to A levels or a degree. You can even upskill your current workforce using the apprenticeship levy, a perfect solution for those without an infinite learning and development budget, right?

Last year I am proud to say that we hired apprentices into the Media Executive team at Clear Channel, which has been a great success. They have chosen to study a Level 3 apprenticeship in Business Administration and whilst sometimes working alongside studying can be quite heavy-going, they recognise the skills it is providing them to be successful in the workplace. We are now looking at where we can expand this into other areas of the business.

There are so many advantages of getting an apprentice on board. Not only does it often give you access to a different pool of candidates from where you may usually source, it also allows you to train someone up from ground level. As a line-manger, seeing that progress and being a significant part of it, can be really rewarding.

The real question is, how do we best educate our staff about what an apprenticeship means today? I think a good starting point is having advocates to spread the word, of which I am happy to be one! So, when you next have a vacancy, would you consider an apprentice?

Lucy Morrison is HR Advisor at Clear Channel United Kingdom.

Clear Channel work with Acacia Learning to upskill their Human Resources team with CIPD and HR Apprenticeship training course programmes.  

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