How to create opportunities for half a million potential apprentices

May 24, 2023 | Apprentices & school leaver, Home Featured, How-to

Content provided by: UCAS

UCAS projects a million annual applicants to UK higher education by 2030 – up 30% from today – with 500,000 students likely to be interested in apprenticeships. That’s an additional 100,000 new potential apprentices to recruit. Here UCAS talks about their Journey to a Million essay collection, and the role apprentices could play.

In partnership with Knight Frank and Unite Students, our national debate on the UK’s Journey to a Million has already delved into the challenges of competition, supply and demand and widening participation.

Here, we’re focusing on apprenticeships in the fourth of those challenges – making choices – and how we can maintain the quality and range of those of choices to make the surge in interest in apprentices a reality.

As apprenticeship opportunities are in increasing demand, here are some tips from our Journey to a Million essay writers on how employers can recruit talented apprentices.

  1. The image of apprenticeships is changing

Recent UCAS research into apprentices suggests that a third of applicants don’t receive information about apprenticeships from their school. Though a few analogies paint a useful, accurate picture for them.

The first is veganism. Something once thought of as eccentric and odd – now seen as an active, informed choice about everyone’s long-term future.

The second is the ‘upside down’ from the TV series Stranger Things. Hidden from view, inaccessible, and unfamiliar – unlike the everyday American town (or traditional university) that exists alongside it. But we’re increasing access to this more unfamiliar territory all the time.

Andy Forbes, head of development at the Lifelong Education Commission and Apprenticeship Champion for UCAS said, “All the degree apprentices I’ve talked to are full of appreciation for their opportunity, and had nothing but praise for their learning experience.”

Here are some of the key advantages you can sell to potential apprentices:

  • They’ll earn instead of entering into student debt.
  • They’ll learn relevant technical skills that are valued in fast-evolving industries.
  • They’ll gain work-based skills that employers want, like self-organising and teamwork.
  1. Apprentices will be able to apply more easily than before

There are a lot of apprentice applicants already, vacancies continue to grow, and it’s not always easy to find the right fit.

When the fit is right though, people can really fall into place in their chosen company and role.

Lindsay Conroy, apprenticeship programme lead at UCAS said, “This person was determined and willing to work hard for what she wanted. Forty applications and an eight-stage interview later, she’s a thriving degree apprentice building a great reputation for herself.”

This is why the UCAS website will equally display apprenticeships and degrees side-by-side by autumn 2023, where employers can also list their employer profile.

Providing the choice of similar subjects across university and apprenticeship opportunities can only increase engagement further and allow people to make the right choices for them.

Displaying an employer’s profile and requirements so early in the application journey will help to match the right applicant with the right employer, reducing the likelihood of a potential apprentice having so many setbacks on their journey.

  1. Technical apprenticeships and education are developing further still

In the past year, government figures show participation has increased in general apprenticeships and technical education – 572,210 compared to 555,890 last year.

ISE’s Student Recruitment survey supports this, showing hiring of apprentices is expected to grow by more than a quarter this year.

With the types of higher-level apprenticeship set to only increase further as well, there’ll be more technical opportunities available than you might think.

Solicitors, space engineers – even medical doctors. The types of roles that are highly practical but require a lot of academic learning along the way.

Jennifer Coupland, chief executive officer at the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education (IfATE) said, “The technical route should sit confidently alongside traditional academic progression, broadening the range of viable options learners might undertake, dictated by their own circumstances and preferences.”

IfATE has worked with employers to create 663 occupational standards. This helps to make sure high-quality, employer-led learning can keep up with the ever-changing needs of both systems and individuals alike.

  1. Work for an SME? How to appeal to potential apprentices

So far, larger organisations have attracted apprentices partly through better brand recognition. There’s a certain amount of prestige that comes from signing with a larger brand – which could be enticing for an apprentice whose friends are going to recognisable universities.

But the huge surge in start-ups over the last decade has created a largely untapped pool of junior roles, especially in the digital and creative industries.

These SMEs can offer more role fluidity and variety than a larger brand can. Sell this to those ambitious people who don’t want to be pigeon-holed from their first day onwards.

Jason Holt, chief executive at Holts Group of Companies said, “Young apprentices already break the ‘mould’ of doing an undergraduate course and are likely to have the right disposition for the start-up environment.”

And since the Covid-19 pandemic, online learning has proven that it’s both effective and engages people well – sidestepping the costs of in-person training.

As an SME you can utilise this by:

  • teaching practical and organisational skills quickly and remotely
  • removing the obstacles of finding training destinations around the country
  • engaging a mix of suitable people who are ready to learn – even in rural areas

Follow UCAS’ Journey to a Million national debate

The making choices essays elaborate further on the contents of this blog if you’d like to know more.

Meanwhile employers can find apprentices on the UCAS website by creating their employer profile and posting their apprenticeship vacancies – accessing great potential that was unreachable before.

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Apprentices are essential for future talent strategies

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