Down to busi­ness

Col­leges must lis­ten to what busi­nesses want if they’re to foster the best new tal­ent

TES (Times Education Supplement) - - CONTENTS - Tim camp­bell

The Ap­pren­tice’s Tim Camp­bell on his pas­sion for…ap­pren­tice­ships

THE IN­TRO­DUC­TION of the ap­pren­tice­ship levy is cre­at­ing new routes into the work­place to ri­val grad­u­ate in­take – but we must change per­cep­tions around the term “ap­pren­tice” if the gov­ern­ment is to suc­ceed in its mis­sion to cre­ate the next gen­er­a­tion of skilled work­ers, while also ac­cel­er­at­ing so­cial mo­bil­ity.

It is not by chance that, as the first win­ner of BBC’S The Ap­pren­tice, I am now in a po­si­tion to cham­pion ap­pren­tice­ships as a vi­tal and valu­able route into the work­force as head of client ser­vices within our emerg­ing tal­ent prac­tice at Alexan­der Mann So­lu­tions. I’ve al­ways viewed ap­pren­tices as in­te­gral to build­ing a skilled and di­verse work­force. How­ever, just as the tele­vi­sion pro­gramme is at odds with the tra­di­tional view of an ap­pren­tice, so too are the ex­pe­ri­ences of those un­der­tak­ing de­gree level ap­pren­tice­ships.

Busi­nesses are re­set­ting their per­cep­tions around ap­pren­tice­ships; th­ese are no longer just for en­try-level tal­ent, funds are be­ing directed to­wards up­skilling ex­ist­ing em­ploy­ees to aid pro­duc­tiv­ity and re­ten­tion. As an im­me­di­ate ac­tion, we must stop cat­e­goris­ing an ap­pren­tice as a 16-year-old school leaver lack­ing a com­pass to guide them down a for­mal ca­reer path. His­tor­i­cally, some hir­ing man­agers have been wed­ded to the no­tion that grad­u­ates are al­ways the best choice for emerg­ing tal­ent re­cruit­ment ini­tia­tives but this has to change. As one client noted, ap­pren­tice­ships al­low you to at­tract a dif­fer­ent au­di­ence, not an in­fe­rior one.

The in­tro­duc­tion of the ap­pren­tice­ship levy has of­fered or­gan­i­sa­tions an op­por­tu­nity to gal­vanise think­ing around the sourc­ing and de­vel­op­ment of tal­ent. A re­cent sur­vey we con­ducted of more than 3,000 se­nior HR lead­ers found that over half (52 per cent) are plan­ning to use ap­pren­tice­ship levy funds to bring on board new tal­ent, with the ma­jor­ity of re­spon­dents (71 per cent) say­ing that they see the levy as ul­ti­mately cre­at­ing a new route into the work­place to ri­val grad­u­ate in­take. So it seems that the ini­tia­tive is ful­fill­ing its ob­jec­tives, at least to an ex­tent.

How­ever, de­gree ap­pren­tice­ships pose a sig­nif­i­cant chal­lenge for em­ploy­ers, namely balanc­ing the ca­reer de­vel­op­ment of the ap­pren­tices they pro­duce with those who come through the more tra­di­tional univer­sity route. To en­sure that ap­pren­tices are treated equally to, and given the same op­por­tu­ni­ties as, grad­u­ates, busi­nesses must en­sure that ap­pren­tices are not some­how dis­ad­van­taged in a way that per­pet­u­ates per­cep­tions that ap­pren­tice­ships are a sec­ond-class qual­i­fi­ca­tion.

Find­ing ef­fec­tive ways to com­mu­ni­cate the ap­pren­tice­ship op­tions that the levy cre­ates is not di­lut­ing or down­grad­ing the tal­ent pool, but widen­ing it to in­clude those who may not oth­er­wise have had the means, or de­sire, to study at de­gree level.

Dra­matic shift in power

Higher ed­u­ca­tion in­sti­tu­tions are keen to take full ad­van­tage of this new mar­ket but, in re­al­ity, many are not yet ready. One of the most sig­nif­i­cant changes brought about by the in­tro­duc­tion of the ap­pren­tice­ship levy is a dra­matic shift in power in the sup­plier and con­sumer re­la­tion­ships. Em­ploy­ers are now in full con­trol of fund­ing and train­ing and this may lead many to take a hard look at the qual­ity of ser­vice they are re­ceiv­ing. Em­ploy­ers are us­ing their new-found fi­nan­cial mus­cle to make sure that both fur­ther ed­u­ca­tion and higher ed­u­ca­tion providers de­liver ex­actly what the pur­chas­ing or­gan­i­sa­tion needs.

Look­ing at de­gree-level ap­pren­tice­ships specif­i­cally, the ed­u­ca­tion sup­ply sit­u­a­tion is in a state of flux, with many higher ed­u­ca­tion in­sti­tu­tions keen to cap­i­talise on the op­por­tu­ni­ties that the ap­pren­tice­ship levy is cre­at­ing but they are not yet fully suc­ceed­ing. It is cru­cial that th­ese providers step up if they are to avoid los­ing out on valu­able op­por­tu­ni­ties to col­lab­o­rate with busi­ness and de­liver the req­ui­site qual­i­fi­ca­tions.

As one of our clients re­cently noted, the ap­pren­tice­ship levy is bring­ing about the most fun­da­men­tal change in our ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem in a gen­er­a­tion. As busi­nesses be­come in­creas­ingly in­volved in shap­ing ap­pren­tice­ship de­liv­ery, the ben­e­fit will be felt not only by in­di­vid­ual firms, but also by the wider UK work­force. Its in­tro­duc­tion has put a spot­light on sourc­ing and the de­vel­op­ment of tal­ent and how it can be more closely aligned with the real needs of or­gan­i­sa­tions both now and in the fore­see­able fu­ture. Tim Camp­bell is head of client ser­vices, emerg­ing tal­ent at Alexan­der Mann So­lu­tions. He won the first se­ries of the BBC’S The Ap­pren­tice

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