Scotland has access to a family of apprenticeships that allows employers to engage with flexible Foundation, Modern, and Graduate-level apprenticeship frameworks and during National Apprenticeship Week 2022 we want to highlight our experience of apprentices.
The Apprentice Store has been employing apprentices for 5 years and has assisted 17 apprentices with their apprenticeship in that time. We do not just employ apprentices, we have also supported 9 young people with their Foundation apprenticeship whilst they are still in school. The COVID pandemic has created some challenges for apprentices and employers alike in how to onboard, support, and develop at distance – we wish to share our experience of apprenticeships to assist people who are looking to be an apprentice as well as employers who are considering employing an apprentice.
So, what makes a good apprentice?
When you think about apprentices, it is typical to think of a young person, but apprentices can be over the age of 24 so our first piece of advice is you do not need to be young to be an apprentice. The reason apprentices are typically younger is apprenticeships offer a great framework to develop new skills, but they can also be used to retrain or upskill. Employers seek to employ young people to attract new staff into their business and develop skills specific to their business as they see value in developing staff through apprenticeships. Apprentices and employers are supported by a training company that is funded by Skills Development Scotland to cover the support, guidance, and training to achieve the SQA accredited qualification from the many apprenticeship frameworks that are available.
The commitment to learn, from our perspective, needs to be the most important objective for the apprentice as they will be given the opportunity to learn through work experience regardless of their age. This may seem obvious, but the employer and training provider need the apprentice to show progression, so it requires the apprentice to show commitment and improvement in skills and knowledge. We have found that young people are keen to learn and as they have so much that they can learn they will show the biggest change once they become confident in their ability. When the apprentice is older, they come with life skills and previous work experience and typically have a clearer vision of what they want to achieve and will develop at a faster pace.
Apprentices as part of a team
Our apprentices all want to feel part of a team and typically learn by doing rather than being told what to do and as result require a suitable support framework. We look to buddy an apprentice with a member of our team who is supported by an internal skills mentor in addition to their training provider coach. We passionately believe that this support framework gives our apprentices the opportunity to learn from different people who bring different support techniques, knowledge, and availability.
Apprentices need to be confident in asking questions when they do not understand something, we see this as a strength of character rather than a weakness and we continuously re-enforce this in our working practices and not just for our apprentices. We believe that this culture shows our team can learn from each other, regardless of their experience and position within the business as there is always an opportunity to expand your knowledge and understanding if you ask questions. We find that our staff gain an insight into the progress of their own skills development by being asked to explain something or support another member of staff in understanding something.
Applying for an apprenticeship
We do not believe that academic background and any work experience are critical to the success of an apprenticeship, but we do recognise that other employers may feel differently about this. We believe that investing in an apprentice that wants to learn will build confidence in their ability to succeed.
When an apprentice applies for any apprenticeship, we suggest that they should do the following:
- Research the organisation that they are applying for to show an interest and desire to join the team.
- Research how the apprenticeship will benefit your development and how this will assist the organisation with their goals.
- Customise your personal statement in your CV for the role and organisation that you are applying for based on the research.
- Ensure that your covering email is professionally written as failure to compose this well may exclude you from the next stage.
- Go prepared with some questions for the interview as this shows commitment as many people do not ask questions.
- When you get your apprenticeship that is when the work really starts as you are now earning, so you need to learn. Your employer can help you learn but you need to learn and remember what you have learnt.
- Speak to your training coach and your line manager about challenges and opportunities.
- Believe in yourself and your ability but listen to advice given to you.
Apprenticeships offer a fantastic opportunity for the apprentice to enter the workforce or reskill and for employers it allows them to invest in their future workforce. Investing in your new workforce is just as important as investing in your current workforce and apprenticeships allow for a culture of learning within an organisation.
This blog was written by our Founding Director, David Massey.