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Does The Word Apprentice Need Rebranding?

Following our latest Sales Surgery, “The Future of Tech Talent: How Apprenticeships May Hold The Key”, we identified many misconceptions and preconceived ideas about who an apprentice is and what an apprenticeship involves. As a result of this, we wanted to explore whether the ideas surrounding apprenticeships are correct or, does the term “apprentice” need rebranding? 

In order to fully understand the notions surrounding the term “apprentice” we must look at its history. One of the first instances of the word was in 1300, in Old French - “aprentiz”, meaning "someone learning". However, the term was also employed as an adjective and taken to mean "unskilled” or “inexperienced” deriving from the verb “aprendre” meaning "to learn/to teach". As a result of this, we can understand how some beliefs surrounding the word “apprentice” connote a negative association since its origin.

Traditionally, UK school leavers face a tough decision between ‘Apprenticeships vs University’, with many opting for University over apprenticeship programmes. However, did you know that over 65% of university graduates said that they felt some form of regret about going to university? A further fifth felt that their parents would not approve if they opted for an apprenticeship over a university degree! 

So, Why Do We Encourage University and Further Education Over Apprenticeships?

Back in the late 70’s and early 80’s attending university was not the norm. Most people finished school between the ages of 16-18 and started the world of work. University was solely a place for academic individuals and those considering employment in more academic fields such as medicine or law. Therefore, having a child who attended university was a proud achievement. As a result of this, many parents encourage this academic route for their children believing that they will receive better accolades and opportunities by being a graduate. 

Similarly, apprenticeship training at this time was mainly for manual labour roles such as a plumber or builder. Whilst these were great industries to get into, they did not hold the same weight in societal eyes. And therefore, apprenticeships were (and continue to be) viewed with stigma and negativity.

However, apprenticeships are no longer just for manual roles. Just this month, Rishi Sunak has pledged to increase funding for apprentices by £126 million!

This includes a raise for employers as the cash incentives to take on apprentice’s increased from £2,000 per apprentice under the age of 25 (and £1,500 for those over 25) to £3,000 - regardless of the apprentice’s age. This means that for the first time, many individuals who don’t fall into the bracket of “school leavers” can access apprenticeships to forge new careers with the relevant job training.

A BBC article reporting on this new funding quoted Lizzie Crowley, Skills Adviser for The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) who stressed that awareness of traineeships is still very low: "Besides providing additional funding for placements, the government will have to do much more to market them...”  Arguably suggesting that the term “apprentice” may need rebranding.

And they’re not the only ones to challenge the stereotype. Interestingly, UCAS defined the ‘apprentice’ on their site as “a person who is learning a trade from a skilled employer, having agreed to work for a fixed period at low wages”.  However, this is noteworthy as UCAS then seems to challenge this dictionary definition adding, “In days gone by, apprentices tended to be young people working under a skilled craftsperson...But these days, apprentices can be found in almost every industry, from TV production and broadcasting to education and healthcare”.

We believe this highlights a major societal change in attitude and the way we perceive apprentices. Apprenticeships are becoming a more attractive, appealing offer not only to young people, but to those considering a new career path. 

Certainly, gone are the days of a ‘job for life’. An increase in social mobility means that people no longer keep the same job all their adult life - people today move a lot more freely within their jobs. For example, the oldest Pareto apprentice is 75. Perhaps this is where apprenticeships need to be rebranded from “unskilled” towards “new skills”. 

During our recent webinar, we spoke with Hewlett Packard Enterprise who detailed that many of their new apprentice intakes were past graduates. It seems that the beliefs surrounding apprenticeships are starting to change - maybe it is time to rebrand the term, replacing the old stereotypes of the ‘young tea maker’ with new, more accurate associations.

Benefits of Apprenticeship Programmes

Apprenticeships are not only an opportunity for candidates to acquire new skills, they also have a demonstrated positive impact on businesses. For example, Staff Development. Apprenticeships are not always thought of as a route for higher level, technical education for staff members who may be looking to progress into more senior roles.

Further ways an apprenticeship programme can benefit your business:

  • Increase your 'bench talent' strength by developing internal skills sets.
  • Save on recruitment costs by upskilling your workforce.
  • Avoid skills gaps by adapting training methods to support the needs of your business.
  • Financial Incentives - Hiring an apprentice aged 16-24 you’ll receive £2,000 and for 25+ you’ll receive £1,500 from the UK government.
  • Bring a fresh perspective and new ideas.
  • Higher retention rates - hiring an apprentice helps create a dedicated, loyal workforce.
  • An effective method of securing the best new talent.

Should You Consider Implementing an Apprenticeship Training Programme For Your Business?

According to the UK Government website:

  • 86% of employers said apprenticeships helped them develop skills relevant to their organisation.
  • A further 78% said apprenticeships helped them improve productivity.
  • A final 74% said apprenticeships helped them improve the quality of their product or service.

Without a doubt, previous ideas and thoughts surrounding ‘apprenticeships’ certainly seem outdated - perhaps it is time to rebrand and rethink how we perceive apprenticeships. 

Here at Pareto, we are challenging the typical expectations associated with apprenticeships. Operating one of the UK’s largest apprenticeship programmes, we provide bespoke and tailored training plans for talented individuals, at various levels of knowledge.

For more information about programmes to upskill your workforce, contact a friendly member of the Pareto team today!

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