With apprenticeships again becoming a popular way for young people to take their first steps on the career ladder and gain experience in business while also doing a formal qualification, I thought I would share my views and observations on what an apprenticeship means to me and a little reflection on what it was like only a few short years ago in the Engineering Industry.
Firstly, I am a huge advocate of the modern apprenticeships as this was how I started my career.
When I started out we weren’t called apprentices, we were trainee’s. We didn’t have an approved path to follow, which was tailored to our specific industry and I don’t remember there being companies which were solely based on delivering apprentice schemes.
My path was day release to college to complete an ONC in Civil Engineering and then another 2 years followed to complete a HNC. College days were very long, which started at 8.30am and finishing at 8.00pm and there seemed to be so many subjects crammed in to the day. Maths, which was such an intense subject always seemed to be the last lesson when all of us were tired and just wanted to be back home. Much of the hands-on knowledge and engineering experience would come from the company and the people within that organisations training programmes - if they even existed. So it was very company dependant on what options and training you would be given as a trainee, and you were used as a trainee. I remember in my second position as a trainee I spend the first 3 weeks at my desk folding A0 drawings, hundreds of them. All day everyday for 3 weeks. Can you imagine asking an apprentice today to do that for nearly a month? It would be a very awkward conversation - what would they be learning. Once you have folded an A0 drawing, you know how to fold a A0 drawing. But I suppose now it is rare that hard copy prints would be issued in such a way, but this was standard back in the day.
Usually, but not always, if you had come through this route the option of doing a part-time degree would be made available, but because of the time it would take not many people took this route. A straight follow-on from a HNC to a degree course with the many hours that had already been spent at college, we just wanted it finished and ended.
Although saying that I know many people who were 'old school’ trainees that did go on to complete part-time degrees to become Chartered Engineers and they have become very successful leaders and entrepreneurs within Engineering and Construction businesses.
But to get back to the modern apprenticeship:
An ‘Approved Apprenticeship’ means that each new apprentice is allocated a dedicated support assessor from the company supplying and regulating the apprenticeship scheme.
Prior to the apprentice being offered a position or even getting an interview with a potential employer they are screened, interviewed and given guidance by these companies. It is the apprenticeship company that will send out the CV’s they feel relevant to that company and they will give a brief overview of the person they are representing.
The new apprentice not only goes to college on day release but they also have professional tasks they need to achieve within the work environment. This is great news for all parties concerned in the development of the workforce, as businesses also must change its position on the internal training received by junior members of staff. More time can be spent on learning the principles and processes of business, but also the apprenticeship goes deeper into the apprentices understanding of the industry as a whole.
Having been lucky enough to recently employ apprentices I can say that without a doubt they are going to become an essential part of business and business development throughout the engineering industry, and most other industries I would guess. The young people of this generation of modern apprenticeship coming straight out of school are already competent and experienced users of computers, the internet, emails and social media. They have got a massive head start with respect to technology and how it works – which we all use daily in every business. This means that they can focus all their efforts on the most important part of our businesses which is developing the skills they need to support and bring value to our companies and industry. They are the future and as such we need them to have all the necessary skills to succeed.
Lets nurture these individuals, but also deploy patience and let them become our industry professionals and experts of the future.