National Apprenticeship Week: Why apprenticeships matter

This week is National Apprenticeship Week, so what better time is there to explore why apprenticeships matter, how they can help not only students but also businesses, and look at one young man’s example.

I recently interviewed Daniel Pallett, a fourth-year apprentice with Enerveo specialising in EV installations and recent winner of the 2022 Building Engineering Services Association (BESA) Electrical Apprentice of the Year. Alongside him was one of his colleagues, Sarah Ramsden, Project Manager (Leeds) at Enerveo.

Importance of apprenticeships

Apprenticeships are not only valuable to a student or young person wanting to forge a future, but also for the organisations recruiting them. In a symbiotic relationship of sorts, the employee gets an array of valuable skills, perks, experience, and life lessons whilst the employer gets an ambitious individual that they can mould into an ideal member of their future workforce.

Above all else, however, apprenticeships are there to enhance opportunities for young people looking to kickstart their lives in a variety of careers. Apprenticeship schemes offer young students looking to come out of school or university the capability to gain further knowledge, learn a trade, get a feel for the working world, get paid to learn, improve their employability, and gain a plethora of hands-on experience. This is exactly what Daniel had to say on the matter as well, “The main thing is that it offers students coming out of school or university the chance to get actual hands-on experience rather than just hearing about it in a classroom.”

Daniel expanded on this to also explain how: “The experience also makes it easier to find a job after you’ve come out of your apprenticeship.”

When speaking to Sarah Ramsden, one of Daniel’s Project Managers, she made sure to nail home one of the most crucial reasons why apprenticeships are important for a young individual who wants to learn a new skill or trade. “Another great bit is that you get to come into an industry and be surrounded by people with knowledge of the field you want to go into. There’s always a mentor to support you throughout as well who understands that you’re not going to know everything as soon as you arrive.” This is ultimately why apprenticeships are so effective at teaching people a whole new world of work and the skills needed to be effective at it. The ability to work in an environment where you are supported by real workers from that industry is invaluable in regards to picking up the skills yourself. As Sarah perfectly summarised: “Mentorship and apprentice reviews can really play a big part in an individual’s growth.”

How apprenticeships can help businesses grow

An important thing to remember when considering why apprenticeships matter is that they must also matter to those employing apprentices. One of the biggest assets a business gets out of an apprenticeship scheme is a skilled worker that knows the trade of their business and can help them grow moving forward.

“Once somebody comes out of an apprenticeship with a business, they’ve got experience with that particular organisation, so their skills are tailored to what that business does. They are familiar with the type of work [the business] carries out and can specialise in it,” says Daniel.

This is the biggest reason why apprenticeships can help businesses grow, being able to hire younger individuals and mould them into a specialist for your business, at a generally lower cost than a traditional route, is a great way to grow your business at both a small or large scale. “A company can invest time into someone, sometimes almost five years or so, and get a successful employee at the end of it all,” commented Daniel, whom himself has become a valuable asset to his company – so much so that Sarah had to add: “We’ll certainly be keeping hold of him anyways!”

An example from the field

Daniel, who as previously mentioned is the winner of the 2022 Building Engineering Services Association (BESA) Electrical Apprentice of the Year award, told us a bit more about his journey, how he got into his apprenticeship, what he has learned, and what is next for him – hoping to inspire the next generation of apprentices.

“I just searched on websites mainly, Indeed and places like that. This one in particular, I found on a .gov website.” Is what Daniel had to say when asked how he heard about his current apprenticeship. Being just 17 at the time, Daniel’s start highlights the open access and ease to apply as one of the reasons why apprenticeships can be great for those looking to take their next step in life.

Wanting to learn in the field was one of the key motivators for Daniel when choosing to go into an apprenticeship over other options. He added: “I wanted to start a bit earlier, I wasn’t really interested in going to university or anything like that. I wanted to do something more practical and thought that an apprenticeship would probably be a better option for me.” For eager individuals like Daniel, apprenticeships can offer that faster route into the real world of work, whilst also offering qualifications at the same time.

For Daniel, working with Enerveo was a simple choice, given that they offered him a “broad scope of work” which he has since been able to pick up on in his four years with them. “The most important thing I’ve learned is the practical side of the industry, something I can actually apply to the real job,” he adds. But the learning isn’t just practical for apprentices, a massive part of the learning process is the theory side, something Daniel made sure to note. During his course, he has been “able to learn the theory side of the trade through college, then apply it to the practical side,” creating a positive structure for him to learn from. This is a fantastic example of how apprenticeships can help in fields like electronics, as well as other STEM fields, offering a hands-on experience that builds up a new recruit into a not only qualified but simultaneously experienced worker.

His Project Manager was also eager to add that: “[Daniel] doesn’t like to admit it but he’s grown in confidence as well. When you get these apprentices coming in at 16-17 years old, coming into organisations it can be quite daunting. But I would like the add that he’s really grown in confidence as an individual, on the job, speaking to people, and communicating. All the way to winning National Electrical Apprentice of the Year!” This confidence building is another of the less-mentioned but considerable factors that shows just why apprenticeships matter.

So, what’s next for Daniel on his journey following his apprenticeship and what should future apprentices hope to gain at the end of their own journeys?

This is what Daniel has to say on the matter: “I’m in my fourth year so in the next few months I’ll be fully qualified as an electrician. From there I’ll be able to go into the job officially with the firm. But I’m also looking into learning beyond that point, picking up new skills as I still won’t know everything as soon as I’m done.”

This is a prime example of the outcome every apprentice desires at the end of their apprenticeship, a newfound career with a company that they have stuck by who has stuck by them. Beyond just that, it also highlights that apprenticeships don’t just end when the term of study is over, as now Daniel is looking to go beyond the basics and pick up advanced skills with Enerveo to further his new career.

The hope for Daniel and Enerveo is that by telling his story, they can show just why apprenticeships matter, how they work, and what it looks like at the end of it all.

How can apprenticeships be improved?

However, apprenticeships, like everything, aren’t perfect and there’s always room to improve them for the next generation. The most notable shortcomings of apprenticeships are the lower than standard pay whilst you’re learning, the shorter holiday entitlement, the limited career options down the line (depending on the apprenticeship), and the sometimes demanding environments a new recruit can be thrown into.

In regards to how apprenticeships could improve, Daniel said: “The big thing is always the pay, so maybe something there. Also some people struggle to accept doing those sort of ‘lower end’ responsibilities, things like mopping the floors for example.” But he did go on to say that whilst this is certainly part of the job at the end of the day, it’s still “an opportunity to look at a bunch of different things, and learn.”

It is for reasons like this that engineering-related apprenticeship starts are actually down 5.5% since 2018/19, and down 12.3% since 2016/17. This is why it’s important for apprentices like Daniel to become role models for the future generation.

However, it’s not all doom and gloom, and many of these issues are being addressed over time. Due to this, engineering-related apprenticeship starts have increased at a greater rate than all sector subject areas, increasing 25.8% in 2020/21, compared to 8.6% increase across all sector subject areas, according to data from EngineeringUK – a healthy sign that STEM apprenticeships is still a tool being utilised by those looking to get into this field.

A final note

Apprenticeships are most certainly a valuable tool for students leaving school or university as well as being incredibly valuable to companies looking to grow their workforce in a manageable and successful way.

A final piece of advice from Daniel to students thinking about what to do next in their journeys was to, “just always look around at what’s on offer, look at different websites, ask at school.” But as far as apprenticeships go, it’s all green from Daniel who would “definitely recommend!”