Jackie ChapmanJackie Chapman, Director of Employability and Employer Engagement

Jackie Chapman, Director of Employability and Employer Engagement at CONEL, shares her thoughts how a focus on quality has led to Apprenticeships becoming a more viable option for those starting out in their careers or looking to develop their skills in the workplace.

For more than 20 years I have been working in Apprenticeships and seen many changes, most of which have been positive.

Over the last three years in particular there have been a number of changes to all aspects of Apprenticeships, primarily driven by the Government to make Apprenticeships a viable option for all.

There has been a real focus on ‘quality’ to improve the reputation of Apprenticeships and a great way into work. In the past it was challenging to attract more able applicants, predominately due to a misplaced perception that Apprenticeships are for less academic students, and the highest demand was for Intermediate Level 2 Apprenticeships.

However, over the past couple of years, there has been a gradual but significant shift starting to take place.

Publicity over the new Higher and Degree Apprenticeships has started to demonstrate that there is a viable progression route to most industries. This, coupled with an ever increasing financial burden of going to university, has started to raise questions with parents and schools about the best options.

More and more, we’re attracting applicants with high academic results into both traditional and non-traditional Apprenticeship programmes. An example of this is our Advanced Level 3 Accountancy Apprenticeship, which has seen individuals progress straight from their GCSEs to the equivalent of two A-levels in just one year and onto 18-month Higher Level 4 Apprenticeships.

This has meant that by the age of 18 they have achieved at Level 3 and 4, gained two years’ experience working in their chosen industry and are earning a proper salary with major employers with no student debt hanging over them.

The introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy to large employers in May this year will continue to drive the expansions of the number of Higher and Degree Apprenticeships available and the real opportunities for young people to move into a career via the work-based option.

With the number of Apprenticeship options expected to expand greatly over the next 12 months, we’ll be continuing to offer quality support to businesses to produce highly skilled workers that meet today’s business needs and those in the future.