Apprenticeships are making the news recently- Euan Blair’s billion-pound start -up Multiverse may have something to do with that. The ever-increasing cost of a degree and the realisation that many simply do not ‘pay for themselves’ means that many students and parents alike are now looking to what was once considered the second option- apprenticeships.
As part of our ‘Word From’ series we’ve spoken with our MD Jon Seal who himself was an apprentice and believes that they are far from secondary.
1.So, Jon, can you tell us a bit about your experience as an apprentice?
I left school at 16 and started training with a local company as an electronic engineer. The experience itself was great in many ways, and I’m certain that for me and my learning style it was a better fit than going off to university- I leant far more through hands on learning then I would have in lectures. To me the real benefit of an apprenticeship is that it is far more than just a qualification- there are so many layers to it, and the skills that you gain really become evident and continue to pay off as the years go by.
2. Can you share what skills you feel can be gained via an apprenticeship?
One of the greatest skills that I acquired was learning how to get on with people- something that is crucial no matter what your job or role is. I can’t stress this enough, getting on with people, understanding them, and what their motivations are is a real strength.The hands-on nature and the actual learning whilst doing, plus the chance to work alongside teams of people rather than through a book or lecture was beneficial for me. Apprenticeships let you gain an insight into a genuine work environment – getting out there into your chosen industry is a huge education in itself. In my case, I’m sure I made some mistakes but what young person doesn’t? What’s important was that these mistakes were picked up by people who recognised them, they helped me to understand what I’d gotten wrong and crucially they then helped me to correct my mistake and move on- without the stress of a failed exam which is so often the way that degree students must learn. I look at a lot of what I do today, and I think I can accredit that early learning when I was young to my strengths today.
3. So, it seems that one of the greatest benefits of an apprenticeship is gaining first-hand experience rather than being told about something in a lecture or reading about it in a textbook
Yes, and that is certainly so in our industry. You can be taught in the traditional sense about how you can design the technology and how to code and write things and you think you know how they are installed, but until you’re on a job and talking to and watching people who’ve been doing it for 10, 15, 20 years that you understand that its far more nuanced than that. The practical application of technology is so important and an understanding of this comes from seeing and experiencing how it works in practice. There’s now more of an acceptance that people learn in different ways, classroom learning isn’t for everyone. With an apprenticeship you can start actual learning far earlier than say if you were to go down the degree route. From day one you are getting stuck in and seeing how things work in practice and for people who enjoy that type of learning style it is a real bonus.
4. What do you feel contributes to the misunderstanding of apprenticeships?
The perception of apprenticeships is still very much stuck in the view that they are for plumbers / electricians etc… and for many parents at least laterally a degree was their greatest hope for their children, and it has been compounded by a continued overemphasis on Higher Education in the school sector, which tends to present the “traditional” route of going to university and getting a degree as the only viable option. This leaves many students unaware of the many potential benefits associated with taking the apprenticeship route – one of which is that they can take them all the way from GCSE to degree level in most occupational areas. There are so many options when it comes to apprenticeships, equally, there is quite a lot that needs to be done in terms of educating the public when it comes to them. The important thing is that either as a parent or a young person that there is an awareness of what is going to be the best fit, we all look at things in a different way and have our own individual ways of learning. For us at technologywithin we see our differences as one of the strengths of our team. We believe that a strong business is one that has a diverse but rich skill set, we look at all prospective candidates in terms of what they can add, not if they have a degree. We have people on our team who’ve done PhDs and we have people who’ve gained all their experience from apprenticeships or relevant work experience, and they are all valued equally. Of course, there are some real and obvious advantages to going down the route of an apprenticeship – no student debt at the end, jumping a few rungs on the ladder whilst others are doing their degrees and earning a real wage straight away are some of the most obvious.
5. The tech sector is currently experiencing a lack of talent, what’s the situation like at technologywithin? Do you have any apprentices currently? Or will you be looking for any in the future?
As with many sectors the pandemic has had an impact on the skills shortage. For us we felt that during COVID and lockdown the working environment just wasn’t suitable to bring on apprentices, they need to be learning from their peers and this just isn’t possible with home working. Of course, we weren’t alone in pausing our training programme, so what that means is that we have had a two year or so hiatus in getting in any new talent in and on their way. This is a situation that is only now starting to show itself properly. There is a natural shortfall in that the industry itself as it is growing so rapidly but certainly the pandemic didn’t help.
As things have finally started to return to normality, and we can all get back to our offices we felt it was time to re-start our apprenticeship programme. We’ve just closed our application round where we had 2 level 6 roles to fill, and we’re looking forward to welcoming our new apprentices into the technologywithin family in September. These apprenticeships will last for almost 3 years, are degree qualifications and they aren’t only an amazing opportunity for the apprentice but genuinely as a business, we really look forward to welcoming in the new cohort with all their enthusiasm and different ways of seeing the world- and approaching challenges.
If you know of a young person who might be the perfect fit for one of our technologywithin apprenticeships then get in touch, we’d love to discuss what we can offer and what we are looking for in any potential candidates.