Speaking ahead of the start of National Apprenticeship Week, which begins today, Peter Jones Foundation chief executive Alice Barnard said employers were held back from offering apprenticeships because of myths about the schemes.
Barnard oversees the Peter Jones Enterprise Academy, which was founded by entrepreneur and star of Dragons’ Den Peter Jones and provides business training for young people.
She told HR magazine too many employers failed to see the value an apprentice could bring to an organisation.
“There is a slight fixation on the graduate market, but there are now other ways of being work-ready,” she said.
“I would encourage employers and HR departments and look at their graduate training programmes – and I’m not suggesting they abolish that as a route – but that they look at enhancing that and do a graduate programme or apprenticeship.
“An apprenticeship allows that person to learn while on the job so they have all the opportunities of being able to make a difference to the organisation, evidence their learning through project-based work, and the impacts on the business are real. It’s just a question of employers stepping back and looking at the offering.”
Barnard said many employers didn’t realise hiring an apprentice was the same as hiring any member of staff.
“Some companies say if they want to have an apprentice they will be given one. That’s not at all the case,” she said.
“You interview and advertise as you would for any other position. It goes on the National Apprenticeships website, and you can advertise it in your usual places – you deal with it in the same HR manner as you would anyone else.”
Employers can apply for government support from the government if they offer the on-the-job training schemes, with levels dependent on the type of work involved, age of the apprentice and location.
Barnard said employers did need to be aware of the cost implications of having apprentices and pay them a fair wage. But she insisted schemes could provide cost benefits even if an employer did not receive government funding.
She also urged HR personnel to consider the digital talent many young hires could bring to an organisation.
“Young people are so switched on, particularly with social media and interaction with each other through gaming and all these new digital sources, and they are going to be so more engaged and so much further on than the rest of us are,” she said.
“They’re an asset if that’s part or all of your customer base – they’re going to know so much more how to engage that market share.”
Employers can offer apprenticeships to anyone aged from 16 years. National Apprenticeships Week runs this week.