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Widespread improvement in views of apprenticeships

Attitudes towards apprenticeship programmes amongst employers, young people and parents are on the up according to new research from business and financial advisers Grant Thornton UK LLP, released ahead of National Apprenticeship Week (5-9 March 2018).

Whilst the total number of new apprenticeships in the East Midlands in the 2016/2017 academic year was down by 900 on the previous 12-months to 47,180, according to provisional figures from the Department for Education, Grant Thornton’s ‘Generation Apprentice’ research reveals a positive shift in attitudes towards apprenticeships.

The study found that 43% of employers see apprenticeships as a way to offer young people in their area more opportunity and 86% say they believe apprenticeships increase social mobility in their organisation. 77% of young people and 79% of parents think apprenticeships offer good career prospects and almost half (42%) of young people feel apprenticeships and university degrees hold the same value.

Despite the dip in the number of new apprenticeships in the region over the last 12-months, nationally, employers are increasingly positive.

Half of those questioned said they intend to recruit more apprentices over the next five years and 79% say the Apprenticeship Levy has encouraged them to take on more apprentices than they would have otherwise. 

Tom Copson, who leads the recruitment, school leavers and trainee programme at Grant Thornton’s East Midlands office, says:

“With the introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy and the wider changes to the apprenticeship system, employers should be exploring opportunities to think laterally about how they approach talent development.  Employers can use apprenticeships to tap into new talent pools and upskill existing people.  For employers looking to address the skills gap across all levels there are now new apprenticeship standards going all the way up to masters’ level qualifications.”

In 2013, Grant Thornton became the first professional services firm to remove academic barriers to entry from its trainee selection processes. 

“We now know that this has had a positive impact on social mobility, diversity and innovation without impacting quality,” says Tom.

“The changing attitudes do represent an evolution in the in expectations of young people and parents when it comes to learning beyond school. Add in high university tuition fees and rising living costs and it becomes clear why those looking at higher education options are increasingly seeing apprenticeships and other earn as you learn routes, as a positive route in to a successful career.”

This change in perceptions and the expense of university are among the reasons why 21-year old Amy Pilgrim opted to join Grant Thornton’s school leavers trainee programme at its East Midlands’ office in Leicester when she left The Long Eaton School in Nottingham at 18.

Armed with an A and two Distinction*s in A-levels Maths, Business and IT respectively, Amy had already decided to take the apprenticeship route into a career over going to University, although she did consider both options:

“I was won over by apprenticeships,” she says, “and the high standard of the school leavers programme at Grant Thornton, as I could be qualified in 3 to 5 years and earn a good salary while doing so rather than accrue university debt.

“My plan was always for a career in accountancy and business and I had always known that the apprenticeship, rather than university, route was for me.

“Since beginning my apprenticeship with Grant Thornton, I have qualified in just over 3 years into my career, achieving the ACCA qualification earlier this year,” she explains.

“The support I’ve received and the practical experiences I’ve gained since day one has enabled my success to date. The apprenticeship/school leaver route is perfect if, like me, you want to be qualified in 3 to 4 years, earn a good salary and not take-on student debts. I have been involved in the real work as part of the audit team, attended meetings on site, always with brilliant on the job guidance.”

Amy now actively works with young people to create an awareness of the school leaver programme, as she explains:

“Last year I organised a work experience programme for six students which resulted in Grant Thornton recruiting three of them onto the programme here in Leicester once they had left school.”

Commenting on the research, Chris Frostwick, practice leader of Grant Thornton’s Leicester-based East Midlands office, added:

“The future-fit employer needs more diversity in its workforce to create a high performance, creative culture and to maintain sustainable profitability long term, and needs to be courageous and innovative in terms of where they find the new talent needed for growth.

“However, the research reveals that over a third (34%) of employers still use universities as the most common recruiting ground when looking for entry-level talent to their organisation, with only 23% recruiting via their local colleges and only using 10% schools.

“More needs to be done to connect education providers with employers to better highlight the full range of career options that exist for young people. In our blueprint for the UK, Shaping a Vibrant Economy, we suggested that there is a need to incentivise collaboration between employers and education providers. This includes creating a new school performance measure for every pupil to have at least one interaction with an employer every year, and encouraging universities and business schools to offer graduate level apprenticeships that can be paid for using Apprenticeship Levy contributions.”

Last year, Grant Thornton UK LLP was awarded first place on the first ever list of national employers to have taken significant action to improve social mobility in the workplace, The Social Mobility Employer Index.

Grant Thornton’s East Midlands regional office in Leicester has 160 staff and provides business and financial advice to dynamic organisations in the East Midlands.


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