Organisations must help change perceptions of apprenticeships to ensure the success and diversity of their schemes, according to Capgemini’s talent director Anouska Ramsay.
Ramsay said she doesn't think the government’s recent relocation of skills to the Department for Education will mean the apprenticeship levy, scheduled for April 2017, will be abandoned. She said that to make the levy work for them employers need to help redefine the concept of an apprenticeship.
“Previously apprenticeships were predominantly about addressing youth unemployment. Now they’re about addressing the fact that people will have multiple careers and you can be an apprentice at any age,” she said. “It might be that the technology you’re working with becomes obsolete and you need to retrain. It might be you’ve left the workplace because you have caring responsibilities and you then think ‘how do I get myself back in?’”
Ramsay added there has been suggestion in some circles that the word ‘apprenticeship’ has too many unhelpful connotations and a new term is needed. However, she disagrees with this approach: “Let’s not get rid of the word, let’s change what it means.”
Ramsay said she is encouraged that the levy is pushing organisations to do this: “Law firms have been quite late to the table, but they are definitely seeing the opportunity now,” she explained, adding though that more work needs to be done with parents and schools to encourage people of all genders, backgrounds and ethnicities to see apprenticeships as a viable alternative to university.
“Perceptions are changing but they’re not changing wholesale,” she said. “There are still prejudices, particularly for girls, that they should go to university; it’s what parents expect. So we are working on stakeholder engagement with schools and parents… we have parent zones that allow parents to understand [what apprenticeships actually entail].”
Communicating success stories will be important in raising the profile and prestige of apprenticeships, Ramsay pointed out. She said organisations are now on the cusp of having success stories to share - the percentage of Capgemini apprenticeships on track to receive a first class honours degree for example.
Ramsay added that employers must approach the levy as a change management process involving additional activities, which funding from the levy won’t necessarily cover.
“So much needs to change in your organisation for this to be successful. We have had to put a new pay and remuneration model in place for graduates and apprentices for example,” she said, explaining that “indicators of success” for apprentices have also had to be carefully thought through, as has devising a process where particularly successful apprentices can be “fast tracked” through the organisation.
“These are things you don’t necessarily get to use the levy for but you have to get right,” she said.