Busting the 9 most common myths about apprenticeships

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An apprenticeship could boost your company at minimal expense – and the process is easier than you think.

As a business owner, you probably already know about the benefits of apprenticeships. They can fill your talent pipeline with skilled employees and provide a structured, affordable way to ensure your company has a ready supply of qualified talent to fill critical roles.

But maybe you are hesitant because of potential downsides.

Perhaps you believe they are too costly for your business to afford. Or maybe you think they would be too difficult to set up – or too time-consuming to run.

The good news is that apprenticeships are none of these things. In the following videos, numerous employers with abundant real-world experience demolish the common myths that may be holding you back.

1. Myth: apprenticeships are hard to set up

Creating an apprenticeship is easy. AAT and a training provider will hold your hand through the whole process, from securing funding to placing adverts. Your employee’s training provider handles most of the admin for you.

“Setting up an apprenticeship is all to do with your relationship with your training provider” explains Catherine Walsh, Human Resources Director, Buzzacott.

Check out our guide to getting started for the seven easy steps.

2. Myth: apprenticeships are expensive

Apprentices are a cost-effective way to hire and train staff. Research shows businesses typically receive a bottom-line boost of about £2,000 every time they hire an apprentice (after wages/training costs). Plus, a typical SME can get 95% of their training costs funded.

It also helps that recruiting is usually simpler than hiring a regular employee.

3. Myth: employers have to spend time ‘babysitting’ apprentices

Looking after an apprentice might be daunting, but Helen Bloodworth, Senior Manager – Professional Qualifications, RSM UK found “it’s no different to usual line management”. Indeed, a talent coach will guide you and your apprentice through the process.

The training provider is paid to take the pain out of running apprenticeships, including paperwork, pastoral care and helping apprentices record their evidence. Ultimately, they’ll help you throughout as it’s in their interest that the apprenticeship works.

4. Myth: the off-the-job training has to be delivered externally

Apprentices are required to spend a fifth of their week on education such as theory or writing assignments. But this doesn’t mean they have to spend one day a week away from the workplace. Off-the-job training can be delivered at an apprentice’s workplace.

5. Myth: employers have to document off-the-job training

Don’t worry, the training provider documents the apprentice’s off-the-job training so the employer doesn’t have to.

6. Myth: the employer has to pay into the Government levy

You’ll only pay into the Government’s levy scheme if your pay bill is over £3 million a year. Plus, if your annual wage bill exceeds this threshold, you almost certainly have to pay the levy regardless of whether or not you employ apprentices!

Similarly, there are a number of myths that might discourage potential apprentices:

There is no upper age limit. In reality, people of all ages and abilities complete apprenticeships across a variety of industries. In fact, 46% of apprenticeships started in 2018/19 were by people aged 25 or over.

According to Lizzie Morris, Early Careers Development Manager, KPMG “age is absolutely not important to us”. The firm has senior managers, mature students and parents returning to work on their apprenticeship programmes “so they’re definitely not just for school leavers”.

Jack Bennett, apprentice at Pobl housing association, says “I was looking to change my career but the most difficult thing is getting your foot in the door. This apprenticeship programme gives me that opportunity and experience while giving me study leave and being paid on the job.”

7. Myth: apprenticeships are only for new employees

Existing employees can be trained through apprenticeships to attain skills and recognised qualifications. It’s a great way to reward current staff by increasing their skills, knowledge and confidence.

Employers such as RSM and KPMG support apprenticeships for current staff. RSM recently launched a Level 7 apprenticeship, an MSc in data, with a cohort pulled from a wide range of employment grades. At KPMG, employees are eligible so long as their role allows them to apply the knowledge and skills required by the apprenticeship standard.

8. Myth: apprenticeships not as good as a degree

This view is outdated and the evidence proves it. Apprenticeships today are a viable alternative to academic education, covering a variety of sectors and levels. Apprenticeship schemes can be found at law firms, banks, tech companies and accounting giants such as KPMG.

Apprentices really benefit from the programmes. Catherine Walsh, Human Resources Director, Buzzacott says “our AAT trainees qualify with a professional qualification ahead of their peers that go to university”. There are loads of benefits to becoming an apprentice, including getting real-world experience you can’t develop in a classroom, earning while you learn and advancing your career prospects.

Businesses get a boost, too. Apprentices can provide better value than graduates due to their increased loyalty, enthusiasm and motivation. In fact, 85% of employers would recommend apprenticeships to others.

9. Myth: apprenticeships don’t result in full-time jobs

Actually, 90% of apprentices stay in their workplace after finishing their apprenticeship. This demonstrates they are loyal, and that their competence is valued by employers too.

“We see our apprentices as our future finance leaders,” says Pam Hawkins, Finance & Accounting Apprentice Scheme Lead at the MOD’s Defence, Equipment & Support agency. She also notes that 75-80% of apprentices achieve promotion within the first year of their jobs.

Not only can an apprenticeship land a job, it can also help you advance all the way to the top, as accountancy firm director Laura Whyte MAAT can attest. “I’m a real ambassador for the AAT Apprenticeship. It is a great way of joining up learning and working, and it opens the door to so many opportunities in a range of sectors.”

Start your first apprenticeship

You can learn more about AAT apprenticeship on our website. You can also download our free eBook – 7 easy steps to start your first apprenticeship for easy-to-follow advice on how to get up and running.

The main photograph in this article features Narpreet Bhamra MAAT, who studied AAT as an apprentice with Microsoft and is now Senior Global Finance Analyst with Unilever.

Cat Hall is AAT Content Editor, members and technical .

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