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Posted by Aliyah Norrish

Apprenticeships are ‘in’ this season

So National Apprenticeship Week 2014 has come and gone, and with the Deputy Prime Minister’s speech at the end of February, the importance and availability of opportunities for those who want to break into the world of work by working and learning were stressed on an open platform.

We joined the team at DiVA, a Creative Skillset accredited Ticked training provider, at an open breakfast meeting for SME employers to exchange their apprenticeship experiences, expectations and intentions.

Over tea and coffee on tap, I got chatting with Jerome and Kristie, current apprentices and apprenticeship evangelists.

For Jerome, three months into his business administration apprenticeship with PRS Music, it was a perfect fit. A songwriter at heart, Jerome gets the opportunity to explore the core workings of the music business, but still gains essential experience of all facets of any working office and an NVQ qualification. And through DiVA’s framework, Jerome was able to tailor his units over the course of the 12 month contract.

After college Kristie worked for a short while, but soon found she wanted something more structured that would aid her professional development. Now an apprentice for DiVA itself, Kristie follows the community arts framework as a projects administrator, gaining hands on experience in administration, events coordination and general office-based work.

Speaking with Kristie and Jerome, brings home how much confidence an apprenticeship can give a young person. An opportunity to communicate in a professional environment and having responsibility to represent a company are foundational skills that thrive when young people are given real options for their own development.

What’s the best way to offer those options? Three key points emerged.

Job description is king

Employers were unanimous: there’s no point in considering an apprenticeship framework or its training practicalities before identifying your business’s skills gaps and needs. Apprentices should be viewed as employees who will contribute to the daily workings of a company.

A clear job description also allows the employer to manage the expectations of the apprentice. With the growth of start-ups in places like Tech City in Shoreditch young people can approach creative sector jobs through the rose-tinted lenses of freebies, events and celebrities. However, a signal was clear among the attendees – apprenticeships need to set realistic standards and not glamourise work. As Steve McKevitt stressed to providers at the Transfusion Conference, the huge difference between ‘working in a creative industry’ and being a ‘creative’ needs to be driven home among young people entering the sector.

No false economies please

As with any entry level job, an apprenticeship should reveal the building blocks of the company and generate clear industry insight. But employers want to invest their time and money in someone who will also be a long-term asset.

Employers agreed that a shorter work placement with no formal training attached was a false economy: in two months the company simply does not have the time to fully train and develop an individual.

Apprenticeships make business sense

What gives DiVA so much business sense is the bespoke service they offer within an accredited Ticked framework. Employers treat the apprentice as they would an employee – employers choose who to interview and have contractual obligations, but assist in their training and development.

In the words of one employer, it’s a privilege to take a ‘blank sheet of paper’ and develop a skilful individual with professional abilities to benefit their company.

For a small sum, the return on this particular investment can really sky rocket.

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