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Take on an apprentice

The National Apprenticeship Service reported that almost 370,000 apprenticeship applications were submitted online between February and April 2013 – a growth of over 32 per cent when compared to the same period last year. Vacancies also grew, with over 32,600 advertised during the same the period, and business, administration and law was the most popular subject – proving that apprenticeships now offer a gateway into the professions, as well as into more traditional areas, such as engineering.

Yet the investment sector has been slower than other parts of the economy to embrace – and benefit from – this important shift in the way skills in the labour market are being developed.

The appeal of apprenticeships as gateways to the professions helps to dispel the belief that they are an alternative path for the ‘less academic’, as they offer a route to a career for bright school leavers.

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For example, Rathbones in Liverpool will be taking on six new apprentices for perhaps the first time in the firm’s 270-year history. The apprentices will study an NVQ in business administration (level two) during their first year and the CISI investment operations certificate (level three) during their second.

Paul Loughlin, Chartered MCSI, deputy chief operating officer at Rathbones, said the firm was aiming to complement the existing management development and graduate programmes, which are focused on investment management, and create a “more operationally focused programme using the apprenticeship framework”.

In addition, he explained: “Where in the past we’ve tended to recruit university graduates, there’s sometimes been a mismatch in terms of expectation and reality, because, understandably, they come out of university feeling they can be team managers. By setting up the scheme, we feel we’re tapping into people’s potential earlier on and they’re able to develop in the working world rather than going through the education sector.”

Apprenticeships also tap into a different way of learning. We all have preferences for the way in which we learn, and while some people do learn more effectively by gathering significant information and assimilating it in a classroom setting, others excel by immediately applying their learning in a real-life scenario, for whom the apprenticeship approach is ideal.

Funding

The government has been gearing its funding for young people’s education and training into the apprenticeship area, recognising that for both employers and employees, a pathway that combines college-based on on-the-job learning is cost effective and resource efficient.

Funding is available for up to 100 per cent of the course cost, and until December 2014 a grant of £1,500 is on offer to firms with fewer than 1,000 staff for up to 10 apprentices, provided they have not taken on an apprentice in the last 12 months.

Apprenticeships are available at three levels, which correspond to the way qualifications are recognised by the education regulator Ofqual. The first is level two, which is broadly equivalent to GCSE. Then there are the more widespread advanced level three qualifications.

The government has given a clear signal that it intends to support apprenticeships, and the Richards Review recognised how important it was to ensure that good-quality qualifications and committed employers work together to build the skills of the labour force of the future. Let us make sure our sector is playing its part, as there is much to gain for all of us.