Three years on and the message is starting to get across
IN the third year that North Devon has run its apprenticeship campaign it is becoming clear that attitudes to apprenticeships are changing, writes Robert Zarywacz.
With more than 40 weeks' dedicated coverage of apprenticeships in the Journal since 2011, employers, jobseekers and families are taking on board the message that apprenticeships offer a real, valuable alternative to full-time education and university.
More importantly, apprenticeships are now seen as offering a different path to a successful career as they can still lead to degree-level study, which takes the pressure off young people having to decide whether to take a degree or not.
At this year's employers' and students' events, it was noticeable that many people attending were more aware of the options available and wanted to know more about how to create an apprenticeship or apply for a vacancy than in previous years.
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What is also apparent is how small businesses are embracing apprenticeships. Whereas a decade ago small businesses were often warned off employing staff by the potential threat of draconian employment legislation and employment tribunals, there appears to be a growing view that apprenticeships sometimes offer the only viable option for expansion and business development.
That's not to say that one-person or small family businesses do not have fears about taking on an apprentice as their first ever employee.
It remains a big undertaking and, while training grants make apprenticeships more attractive financially, perhaps there needs to be more help for small businesses to make the successful transition to employers.
One of the concerns I have heard from a number of small businesses is about learning to let go and delegate responsibility to apprentices, perhaps one of the hardest challenges for many business owners.
What is encouraging is that these businesses have progressed beyond the decision to employ an apprentice and are focusing on the practical issues around making it work.
It is also clear that the apprentice 'process' is not perfect and that employers and jobseekers still encounter difficulties in navigating the system.
Having agencies and training providers under one roof for a day made navigation easier, but employers and applicants need to be matched this easily every day.
So even after three years, the job is not finished and the campaign to make apprenticeships better both for businesses and employees needs to continue.
Changes proposed by the Government aim to make apprenticeships even more relevant to businesses.