In his 2013 Autumn Statement, the chancellor George Osborne announced a major reform to the way apprenticeships worked. Not only would the Government be doubling the number available, meaning that over the following two years, an additional 20,000 young people could opt for training on the job, but employers would now be funded directly through HMRC.
From the statistics listed in the House of Commons Library as of December 2014, it appears to be working. Increasingly, it seems that a vocational pathway is no longer considered inferior to going to university. Since the introduction of student loans in the UK under Labour in 1998, it appears the appetite for ‘earn as you learn’ has grown significantly as young people consider the bleak prospect of a debt-ridden future. Perceptions are changing as top-quality modern apprenticeships offer a progressive blend of qualifications, training and salary in a wide range of industries.Judging by the calibre of both employers and apprentices seen at the National Apprenticeship Awards in November 2014, the future of this type of business-employment partnership looks very bright indeed.
One such success story can be found in a specialist IT, Telecoms and Broadcast recruitment provider based in Farnham Common, Buckinghamshire. Brightred Resourcing partnership with Learn Direct has for the last year employed Zohra Hussain as an apprentice, enabling her to gain a level 3 NVQ in recruitment by February 2015.
“Although I have three A’ levels and could have applied to university, I knew from being part of a school executive in years 10 and 11 that I had a flair for recruitment and managing teams. So I decided to apply for a specialist recruitment apprenticeship through the government’s website and quickly received a call from a consultant at Learn Direct who connected me with Michael Allen, the Managing Director at Brightred. Although nervous, I found the interview process much less intimidating than I imagined and to cut a long story short, I was invited to join the company as an apprentice, starting January 2014.”
During her apprenticeship year, Zohra has been mentored by one of the team from Learn Direct who helped compile all the evidence required for the completion of the NVQ Level 3 requirements. In addition, she was observed once a month in her work context and offered valuable and helpful developmental feedback where appropriate.
Inevitably, however, the bulk of her training in the industry has happened day to day in the context of a very busy office, where she has learned everything from how to become more confident on the telephone, to working alongside an experienced member of the company handling a large contract with the potential of multiple sales.
“When I joined the company, I was so aware of what I didn’t know. I was quite shy, and I wondered if I would ever feel confident in the role. A year on, I feel as equipped as I can be, and ready to be employed in the IT recruitment industry. Of course I have a long way to go, but I never want to stop learning! Working at Brightred, where no question was too basic and where everyone has always wanted me to succeed has been the best possible start for me. I am so grateful to Michael in particular for seeing my potential and believing in me.”
Michael Allen, Managing Director at Brightred comments:
“For many years, Brightred has been trying to grow organically, but has found it very difficult to find the right people at the right level. We were made aware of the Government’s Apprenticeship Scheme through the flow of media advertising and decided to give it a go. To cut a long story short, in partnership with Learn Direct, we interviewed Zohra who, following a successful interview became our first apprentice. It has been a thoroughly rewarding and enhancing experience for us all and as Zohra comes to the end of her training year, we hope very much that she will decide to stay with us.”
Clearly, apprenticeships are not for everyone as some school-leavers are much more suited to formal classroom study and full-time education. Opting for university in order to enter their chosen profession following the attainment of a degree is, for many, the most favoured route. It is worth pointing out too that not all occupations actually offer apprenticeships, meaning that university is in fact the only option for qualifying in a particular field.
However, what is apparent from the perspective of the team at Brightred is that the rewards for embarking on the apprenticeship journey have far outweighed their expectations. So much so in fact, that the company is currently looking for two more candidates for the coming year.