18 April 2018

UKFast apprentices - the choice between apprenticeship and university

Some of UKFast’s apprentices with one of our former school teachers, Arlene.

What is the most important ingredient of success?

It’s simple – helping the next generation to grow. You and your business cannot have a legacy if there is no one to continue the work you’re doing to change the world.

So hearing that some employers are exploiting apprenticeships by delivering programmes with limited skills and duties like pot-washing is incredibly concerning.

I read about a recent report by think-tank Reform which said that many firms have simply rebranded existing ‘low-skilled’ roles as apprenticeships after being obliged by the apprenticeship levy to contribute cash to on-the-job learning.

This is absolutely the opposite of what the apprenticeship levy was created for.

Apprenticeships are a viable alternative, not a low-skilled job

We’re finally seeing apprenticeships as a proud alternative to a university education; a real option to bridge the skills gap. Firms not offering valuable programmes are jeopardising all of this hard work. It’s an absurd devaluing of what’s a brilliant way to develop skills and launch exciting careers.

It seems apprenticeships are becoming something of a Wild West, where pretty much any work is being considered an apprenticeship.

The report highlights KFC and Starbucks for their apprenticeship programmes in hospitality where duties includes assembling KFC products and cooking fries. Whilst there isn’t an issue with hospitality firms offering apprenticeships – the issue comes with the quality and value of the skills that these schemes are delivering. Could these young people move to other employers and carve a career with those skills?

Ultimately, it hugely damages the brand of apprenticeships, which are now becoming a route that’s seen as a genuinely viable alternative to university. Allowing apprenticeships in anything, with no skills required, simply makes it a low-paid job and not an apprenticeship at all.

Apprenticeships should be skilled opportunities where people progress and learn a trade whilst earning a fair wage. Some of these hospitality and retail apprenticeships are simply not worthy of the name.

Time for change

I believe that alongside the levy, there should be a stamp of quality. A nod to the apprenticeships that are delivering valuable qualifications that stand the test of time and equip young people for a strong future in the world of work.

We employ full-time teachers to train our apprentices and we supplement the programme with industry-recognised vendor qualifications. These young people need focussed attention and feedback while they are learning; they need a dedicated team to nurture them to achieve their full potential.

Our apprentices at UKFast develop at an amazing rate. It’s extraordinary to see – they’re truly invaluable to our workforce. We’ve created a dedicated learning environment and invested huge amounts of time, money and energy into these young people. Several of our recently graduated apprentices came in at age 16 and within three years were earning £30,000, because of the value of the skills they’re learning.

I hope in the coming weeks we will see brands rethinking their apprenticeship strategy and ensuring that they deliver on their promise to young people.

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