Apprentices are inappropriate for organisations? We don't think so
The CIPD has conducted research into employers' views on apprenticeships and the number of such schemes available throughout the UK. The results suggest that many employers consider taking an apprentice to be inappropriate for their organisation. The reason for this is unclear although it may be due to the rather narrow meaning often applied to the term apprentice.
For many people, an apprentice is a young person learning a trade in a factory. This is reflected in the research, which indicates that of the apprenticeships available to young people throughout the UK, only 17% are available to those with qualifications above A-levels. But Alan Sugar has helped to demonstrate that an apprentice can just as easily be a young professional person.
The RM2 Partnership is strongly committed to the concept of giving work experience to young professionals. The firm has been linked with the University of Surrey for a number of years and has taken one or two interns each year from the School of Law. Not only has this arrangement proven to be beneficial for students seeking to gain valuable commercial work experience, but also for RM2 it has proved a worthwhile venture and provided enthusiastic young team members.
The interns seem to enjoy their time with the firm and often keep in touch with us after they leave. RM2 likes to encourage an alumni attitude and from time to time former interns get together with each other and with RM2 staff for a reunion. One of our interns even came back to work with the firm full time and is now an invaluable member of the team.
At RM2 we value the contribution that interns can make. In return, we believe we offer useful work experience in a variety of areas that will be of interest to young people seeking to pursue a legal or business career. These areas include tax law, company law, trust law and administration, accountancy and business valuation. We also offer interns plenty of interaction with clients and direct involvement in the production of technical documentation.
The traditional view of an apprentice being someone aged 16, fresh from school in need of a trade, is now antiquated and in many cases, inaccurate. Whilst there are important schemes operating in such a format, there is also the need for higher level training positions within firms.
Katerina Rudiger, skills policy adviser, CIPD, has stated that the proportion of higher-level apprenticeships in England is still too low, with our research showing most still pitched at a low level. The overall brand and credibility of apprenticeships in the labour market will be enhanced if employers can be encouraged to offer more apprenticeships at a higher level.
Indeed, if the government seriously intends to increase the number of apprenticeships (both offered and accepted) then it needs to develop its branding, not least to employers and prove to them that giving students a chance in their firm can have highly rewarding outcomes for both parties.