20 February 2017

With more and more big global firms hitting the headlines with apprenticeship announcements, it is important to remember that apprentices are more than a trend.

Employing a young person, who is at the very beginning of their career, is a huge responsibility. I remember years ago, when I was looking at options for higher education, apprentices were seen as the kids who didn’t do well in school; the ones who wouldn’t make it to university. Sadly, the apprenticeship route was almost frowned upon. Now it is more than a viable option – I believe that it is one the best options that a young person can take as they leave school.

There are so many businesses, courses and skills on offer now that university doesn’t have to be the only option.

When we launched our apprenticeship scheme at UKFast, our first goal was to completely reject the idea of apprentices as cheap labour. Apprentices are not the tea-maker or the dogsbody running around – they are young people who have chosen to learn on the job, who are making an incredible impact on the business.

That’s why we pay more than double the national average for apprentices and help them gain the relevant industry accreditation. Not only are apprentices here training to qualify from their apprenticeship, they’re also offered industry-accredited qualifications onsite in our training facility, including certification from Linux, Red Hat and Cisco.

Whilst it is fantastic to see so many businesses getting involved with apprenticeships and launching their own programmes, I do hope that their motivation is in the right place and that they have the facilities and capabilities to offer the support and training these young people need.

It’s always disappointing to hear of businesses that view apprentices as a way to get high output for very little input, but I do see that tide changing every day. There are some excellent organisations out there empowering and developing young people; Timpson and Rolls Royce for example. However, I fear some apprentices aren’t getting this kind of quality and support. For me, it is not just about the hard, industry skills – these young people need to develop into great adults too. Softer skills are essential and are often the hardest to teach. I am proud every day of the incredible work that our training team do to help our 50 or so apprentices grow into extraordinary people.

As business leaders, it’s our responsibility to pay them the wage that they earn and to help them forge the careers that they want and to help them become incredible human beings. Some companies worry about skills gaps, which in the tech industry has been talked about a lot, but if you can equip young people with the skills that will help fill this gap, you are part of the solution.

It’s time for all business owners to see these schemes as an opportunity to help both the apprentices and the business to grow together.

We are recruiting for our next intake of apprentices. We’re looking for the industry’s next big names; the ambitious, enthusiastic young people who are eager to learn and grow. Apply for our award-winning apprenticeship on the UKFast website. I look forward to meeting you.

If you’re a business setting up an apprenticeship scheme or looking for some inspiration, we’re here to help. Collaboration is key.


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