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Support must be there to make apprenticeships work

Channel advised to think of the complete person and their needs if training schemes are going to be successful

Apprenticeships are an important element of the channel’s commitment to bring on the next generation and help ease skill gaps.

There has been an increased focus from government on promoting apprenticeships as an alternative route to universities for students to gain skills and hopefully gain employment. But for a programme to be successful, the right levels of support need to be in place.

The channel has been warned that the moment an apprentice comes under pressure is usually at the time the rest of the team is also stretched delivering a project.

Ash Gawthorp, chief academy officer at Ten10, has been involved with training and supporting channel apprenticeship schemes, and has seen some problems emerge at times of stress. “When the project deadline is looming, that’s the time when those individuals need the most support,” he said. “And that’s often the time when the team’s least able to provide it.

“The killer for me is always if somebody says, ‘Oh gosh, you know what? We just don’t have time for me to show you how to do this. We just need to get it done. So just this once, I’ll do it, and then next time, I’ll show you how to do it.’ That next time often doesn’t really come up, and then that individual sits there thinking, can I actually do this?”

The danger is that doubt sets in, and with the completion rates of apprenticeships coming in under 60%, the candidate loses faith in the process.

“They start thinking, ‘I don’t think I can do this’ and then they will leave,” said Gawthorp. “Then all that work, all that training, is just gone, and it’s such a shame. Having the person there, an individual or team, that can nudge them and keep them on the street and literally pick them up, dust them off, put Dettol on the knees and a sticking plaster, so they can go again, that’s the most important thing.”

Valuable asset

Given the right support, an apprentice can develop and prove to be a valuable asset that has a good grounding in the business.

He added that although there had been a focus on apprenticeships in recent years, it was an approach to bringing on the next generation that was well established, and had been a proven method of imparting skills and knowledge to the next generation.

“It’s the way that we’ve done it for millennia,” said Gawthorp. “If you think back to stonemasons, ironmongers, all those roles, that’s how a master apprentice worked. That’s how it’s always done.

“Tech is a new industry,” he added. “I guess there was a bit of a crossroads. Where does it fall? Does it fall down that model more like plumbing or building, or does it go more down the model like philosophers or poets? Because a lot of the spirit of universities, I think we went down the philosophy and poet group and have given a degree, and then hope that they’ll just drop onto it.”

Gawthorp advised that channel firms looking at apprenticeships should be prepared to develop the complete person to make the process a success.

For more details on apprenticeships across the channel, look out for the forthcoming explainer on the topic.

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