Benefits all round

A study carried out by the University of Warwick in 2008 charted the progress of apprentices placed with 60 employers. It concluded that apprentices were 20% to 30% more productive than colleagues who had not completed an apprenticeship.

“If you can train people internally and give them opportunities to develop, they can become more motivated and productive, and there may be better staff retention,” says Waugh. “More and more employers are recognising that training people through an apprenticeship is the most competitive and efficient way to grow stronger.”

Meanwhile, for apprentices, the benefits are also plentiful. According to the NAS, 90% of them end up being offered a permanent staff role.

Another study, carried out by Sheffield University, found that if someone started their career through a “level two” NVQ apprenticeship (roughly equivalent to five good GCSEs) they could earn £70,000 more during their professional lifetime than someone who had not been an apprentice.

And, for those for whom university isn’t an option, financially or academically, an apprenticeship offers a route into a job. “An apprenticeship marries the vocational with the academic,” explains Waugh. “There may be school-leavers who are very bright but are keener to start working, and earning.

“There are real advantages to be gained in terms of employability – your earning power is greater, you are much more likely to get into management, and your experience makes you much more attractive to an ­employer.”

‘It has built up my CV’

Georgina Stephens is working as an apprentice in human resources for Clinton Cards and is completing a level three NVQ in business and administration (the equivalent of an A-level). At 20, she has already had her first promotion, to the position of human resources officer – a step up that she puts down to the skills and qualifications her apprenticeship is giving her.

“I already had a Saturday job at Clintons, then I went full-time when I decided I wasn’t going to university,” she says. “I’ve learned so much already. It’s been hands-on experience rather than theoretical, and it has taught me how to hone skills like interacting with people. It has built up my CV and shows I have real professional skills.”

Stephens says she has no regrets about opting to work instead of studying for a degree. “I feel it’s a lot better to be able to provide for myself and learn while getting paid, instead of learning while going into debt.”

Annette Middlebrook, human resources director at Clintons, says the apprenticeship scheme is important to the company because “it upskills people and provides consistency”. She believes on-the-job learning is one of the best ways to learn. “Giving staff the chance to gain a recognised qualification really gives people confidence.”

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