Apprenticeships Are For Today Mary-Anne Tells Vince Cable

by: Mary-Anne Bowring

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Apprenticeships Are For Today Mary-Anne Tells Vince Cable

Local Camden Business leader Mary-anne Bowring of the Ringley Group was one of 50 business leaders invited to Vince Cable's Apprenticeships Summit this week. Apprenticeships have worked well at Ringley, since the scheme started in 2010 we've helped 4 young people get started, 1 left to go to university, the other 3 will get real jobs. Apprentices we interview often have better qualifications than I did at their age, we've found them to have a great work ethic and as we're growing fast we're teaching our long term people to pass on their skills so they can move their careers forward and take on new responsibilities. So for us, apprenticeships are a real part of our growth plan.

The other view 

However, on leaving the summit Mary-anne was disappointed that the answer to the question she tabled made it quite clear that apprenticeships are for the future not the today's graduate unemployed. Getting graduates to volunteer on an internship was the answer given. How sad there's no proposals to widening the scheme to support the number of out of work graduates into work. From an employers perspective graduates may have some law or building pathology but lack practical application. It takes on average 9 months for a graduate to become productive and the government must make it attractive for employers to take our graduates on.

Volunteering agreements/internships are not the answer this leaves disillusioned graduates resentful and lacking the understanding of just how much time the employer has to invest to get a return. "Ringley is a keen supporter of Apprenticeships. We believe in the extension of the scheme to 4 year apprenticeships to include attaining a degree is a far better alternative to indebted graduates ill-prepared for the workplace. We also believe that schools careers advice needs to move away from a bias to higher education as apprenticeships offers a much better way forwards. It does show a failings in the school system when after 11 years of schooling apprenticeships for some will be the sticking plaster to achieve level 2 in basics such as maths and english.

What needs to happen 

Yes apprenticeships do need to evolve, employers need to be involved in frameworks. In an industry such as property, law and building pathology do need some classroom re-enforcement yet all the current scheme has to offer us is apprenticeships in 'customer service'. Apprenticeships are a low risk way for employers to re-engage with the labour market and there is no doubt that the government sees them as the principal means of upskilling the workforce. Let's face it, without apprenticeships I doubt as a business we could afford to engage with these youngsters in the way we have Ringley is in the fortunate position to report 35 percent growth since April this year. We are having great trouble resourcing this growth.

Anybody who understands financial modelling knows that growth costs money and customers rarely pay in advance. This is made worse by this years government squeeze on pay collection and the financial markets being unrealistic on basic necessities such as car finance. At Ringley, we are fueling the research we need to continue growing with foreign interns. Our success in itself comes from recruiting for EI and attributes over skills, first direct style perhaps, but this does put an enormous training burden upon us. We really need a scheme to enable us to engage with the graduates now. We calculate that it takes approximately 1 year of research, marketing, training to create a job. Not all jobs are appropriate for 16-20 year old apprentices. Graduates should offer an employer maturity, presentation skills and resourcefulness but there is no shortcut in preparing them to hold a portfolio for a client. We simply must engage with them. We'd love to engage with graduates at dissertation level.

I'm sure I'm not the only MD that can't afford consultants but reads a lot and know what I want researched. Only this week I reached out to graduates by putting an ad on facebook for people who want to 'do a sponsored dissertation'. We need the research, in return we're happy to pay for books and research material and provide a summer internship. Employers do need to engage with young people and what could be better than employers starting that relationship at dissertation level. I can't think of a better way to get in with an employer. I really think that it will only be by creative we can solve these problems. It's our policy that every graduate who writes to Ringley is offered a 3 month internship, some have to wait for a desk space and 2 are on their way to part time jobs from January 2012. We can't recruit from within our industry as most aren't good enough yet I am having trouble filling 3 Ruby on Rails IT Developer positions, need 2 more Property Managers and someone to lead the team.

We had franchising on the drawing board for 2012/13 but I find it is the inherited 10 years of academia and government not addressing the skills that employers need that is the problem. What was fit for then is just not fit for now. It was John Hayes, Minister for State and Further Education and Lifelong Learning who summed up the summit with the 10 items the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills would be taking forward. These being: 1. SME incentives are welcome (£1,500). 2. Marketing/selling apprenticeships, government is not shy to get messages across. 3. A need for recognition for employers who invest in apprentices and give them payback in their profile.

4. Relationship between work placements and apprentices need to get the balance right. Discussions are in place. 5. Social enterprises need a fresh initiative to engage with apprenticeships. 6. Good examples like work at Bentley/exported to others to get the good practice. 7. Apprenticeship framework design - a need to increase the employer engagements and frameworks to be more reflective of employer needs and sector skills. 8. Relationships with schools and the relationship before 16 needs to be improved to make the pathway more attractive and seductive. 9. Bureaucracy/process. A commitment to simplify. 10. Vitally important to deliver employer ownership as the only way to make systems sufficiently responsive and dynamic to meet employer needs.


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