If you take a look at the worldwide employment market over the last 30 or 40 years, there has been a significant drop in the number of apprenticeships. It seems that more and more individuals want to jump into the high paid employment positions straightaway, something which is not always possible and while seen as a “shortcut to success” this is not necessarily the case. If you wind back, take a look at the apprenticeships and what they have to offer, you might be surprised.
Learning a trade from the bottom up
In all honesty, how many of us work in an environment today where the management directly above us, sometimes even colleagues on the same level, ask us to do jobs which they could not do themselves? There is something to be said about learning a trade from the bottom up, giving yourself a good foundation with the basics and then working your way up the career ladder. Even if we take an extreme example such as a career in football, the superstars of years gone by spent their early days polishing the football boots of their football heroes. You can’t put a price on experience, the opportunity to work your way up the career ladder while still being able to help those working under you.
In many ways the early days of an apprenticeship are a challenge, potentially long hours for relatively low pay, with younger workers not even protected by the minimum wage. Those employment positions which do offer apprenticeships are often seen as long-term careers which can prove to be extremely lucrative if an individual remains focused, willing to learn and listen. In many ways the early years are a test for apprentices, have they got the stamina to see through the often challenging times as an apprentice and keep their eyes focused on the longer term. The fact that many apprentices fall by the wayside shows the challenges, that the work is not always mind blowing but it is part of the jigsaw to a long-term career.
A step onto the employment ladder
The economic and political headlines seem to suggest there is always employment for those who want it. The UK is by no means fully employed at the moment but it can be difficult to climb onto the employment ladder, to find a job that you like and in many cases just be given a chance. The opportunity to take on an apprentice, many of which are funded by the government, can offer a perfect opportunity to climb onto the ladder and target the career you always dreamed of. The simple fact is that once you have your “foot in the door” it is up to you to knuckle down, do the work, listen, learn and ultimately push yourself as far as you can. The fact that companies put time, money and effort into their apprenticeship programs means that they will cherry pick the best that are left at the end, those who have shown a true determination.
Defined pay bands
As we touched on above, sometimes the initial pay for apprentices can be extremely low to say the least. In the early years they may not be able to socialise as much as their friends, may struggle to fund the extras such as holidays but the vast majority of companies who offer apprenticeships also have defined pay bands. There is a massive difference in the pay of an apprentice to that of a full-time worker. The beauty is that defined pay bands allow you to look forward and target specific roles and positions within the company. The fact that you have worked your way up from the bottom will always be reflected when promotion and other opportunities arise. There are many benefits to promoting apprentices within a company as opposed to bringing in those who did not go through the apprenticeship system – failing to gather the mass of experience which comes with it.
Building relationships with your colleagues
There is no better way to build relationships with your colleagues than to work your way up from the bottom as an apprentice to a full-time employee and possibly middle management or higher. While you will see colleagues come and go over the years, working your way up from the bottom does allow you to build good long-term relationships with your colleagues. The fact that you have “been there, done it” will always be reflected in the opinions your colleagues have towards you. The best employees are those who never forget where they came from, will offer help where required in areas which they have perhaps moved on from and ultimately they never look down on others. Many people underestimate the power of building relationships through the apprenticeship program but these are relationships which can last for many years both in the workplace and in your personal life.
An entry point for non-academic individuals
We live in a world where far too often individuals are graded on their academic results as opposed to their practical knowledge, skills and ambition. While you may still require some qualifications to join an apprenticeship scheme, in many ways the apprenticeship system allows non-academic individuals to show what they can do. Just because you have a qualification in a particular subject does not necessarily mean that practically you will excel in this area. In many ways, taking a long-term look at apprenticeships and employment, you cannot beat good old-fashioned experience. That is not to undermine academic qualifications but every now and again we need to rebalance the seesaw because qualifications are not the be all and end all.
There are many positive elements to the modern day apprenticeship which can be challenging, tiring and relatively lowly paid in the early years. In many ways it is this test of stamina and ambition which separates the wheat from the chaff and those who want to take shortcuts from those who are prepared to work their way up from the bottom. Clearly defined pay grades, a reduced reliance upon academic qualifications in favour of good old-fashioned work ethic, determination and ambition are all allowed to shine through as an apprentice.
Even though apprenticeship numbers have fallen significantly in recent years, they are a vital element of the employment market – too often undervalued.
This article was submitted on bahlf of Apprenticeship forums.