Cirencester College apprenticeships are proving a popular choice
During National Apprenticeship Week young people and employers are being encouraged to see if apprenticeships could be right for them. Charlotte Shepherd looks at what Cirencester College can offer to a would-be apprentice and also asks what is in it for the employer?
IN AN era when university tuition fees have crashed through the roof and ‘real-world’ experience is highly prized by employers, apprenticeships are taking off.
Cirencester College-designed apprenticeships with local employers are appealing to more young people than ever before, as they offer a chance to get valuable work experience rather than get saddled with university fee debts. If the word ‘apprentice’ brings to mind a mechanic working in a garage, then it is time to think again.
Apprentices of 2013 are to be found in all areas of the working world, from the BBC, to multi-national banks, successful wealth management companies, hotel chains, local restaurants and high street clothing stores.
The notion that an apprentice is on a ‘work placement’ is over. The reality is that an apprentice will be carrying out a real paid job, alongside the rest of the team. Just making the tea will not suffice.
Cirencester College’s head of commercial and business development Richard Ashwood is determined that the 124 students currently on the college apprenticeship programme will receive the best work experience. “Employers with an apprentice see themselves as trainers as well and we remind them that they are expected to develop that individual,” he said.
“Getting onto an apprenticeship can give young people a key advantage in the marketplace and can give them the opportunity to move forward more quickly. This is a real chance to get on.”
When an apprenticeship is most successful the apprentice will gain valuable experience but will also make a significant contribution to the business.
An apprenticeship will usually last for one year and as well as on the job training, the apprentice will attend college on a day release basis to study for NVQ’s and also professional qualifications, including those in marketing and accountancy.
On top of this Cirencester College is now required to offer all apprentices teaching in English and maths up to the standard of a good GCSE. The apprentice really is ‘learning while they are earning’.
And word is obviously getting out that apprenticeships are an alternative to university or the job queue.
New figures show that a record 570 young people in the Cotswolds started an apprenticeship in the last financial year.
Cotswold MP Geoffrey Clifton-Brown welcomed these figures. “These record levels of apprenticeships are fantastic news for our country, for the Cotswolds, and most of all for the people whose lives are being transformed by the opportunities they offer,” he sid.
Cirencester College first developed its apprenticeship programme in 2009 and now offers around 20 different programmes, with the majority of its apprenticeships coming from small and medium-sized employers.
“We opted not to compete with the bigger colleges and decided to concentrate on different areas including marketing, law and digital media. These are very popular but are difficult to deliver so we specialise in them,” explained Mr Ashwood.
The college also boasts high number of apprenticeships in the finance, hospitality and business administration areas.
So what is in it for employers? Offering an apprenticeship can be an ideal way of getting staff in at grass roots level and nurturing their talent to fit their own business. There are also financial incentives available to help employers fund the training.
Wealth management company St James’s Place (SJP) in Cirencester took on five apprentices in different areas of its business last September and is hoping to start another eight this year. If all goes well, the hope is to offer them full-time jobs when their year apprenticeship finishes.
SJP Recruitment manager Sue Kingston said: “It has been very successful so far. These are young people who have opted not to go to university for whatever reason and they love to be working.
“Their managers are delighted with them and the apprentices are working hard and throwing themselves into it. “We have invested a lot of time and effort into them and we hope to be able to offer them permanent roles at the end of the year but even if they decide to leave then they will leave with good skills for the workplace.”
There is no guarantee of a job at the end for any apprentice. “But jobs for life in the real world do not exist anymore,” explained Mr Ashwood. “It is a risk worth taking. An apprenticeship offers a real alternative to going to university and in certain job areas such as marketing and digital media it can be a positive advantage to get work experience”
BASICS FOR APPRENTICES:*
- Anyone living in England, over 16 years-old and not in full-time education can be an apprentice.
- Apprentices earn a wage and work alongside experienced staff to gain job-specific skills.
- Off the job, usually on a day-release basis, apprentices receive training to work towards nationally-recognised qualifications.
- Apprenticeships can take between one and four years to complete.
- The minimum salary is £2.65 per hour; however many apprentices earn significantly more.
BASICS FOR EMPLOYERS:*
- Apprenticeships can train both new or existing employees.
- Funding is available to train apprentices. The government offers employers with up to 50 employees up to £1,500 for taking on an apprentice aged between 16 and 24.
- Employers who take on a 16-18 year old apprentice only pay their salary. The Government will fund their training. If the apprentice is 19-24 years old, you will receive up to 50 per cent.
- Most of the training is on the job at your premises and a local college can provide the rest.
- The apprentice minimum wage is currently £2.65 per hour but many employers pay considerably more.
*Taken from National Apprenticeship Service