March has been an interesting month in terms of the apprenticeship debate. Of course National Apprenticeship Week (14-20 March) not only gives us the chance to highlight the career opportunities we have at Nationwide, but it also gives employers who recruit apprentices the opportunity to publicise the benefits of an apprenticeship career route as well as highlighting the fact that it is a viable alternative to going to university.At Nationwide we’re proud of how our apprentices get stuck into their roles from the start - we’re also proud that they become intrinsic members of teams right across the business despite it often being their first ‘proper’ job.
We’ve recently commissioned research into parents’ attitudes to apprenticeships and it’s interesting that two thirds of British parents would prefer their children to go to university over any other career route. Only 27% would prefer their children to take up an apprenticeship. The research also shows that parents feel that poor pay is the biggest drawback to becoming an apprentice and that they associate apprenticeships mostly with the construction industry.
It’s clear, therefore, that businesses which employ apprentices must do their bit to challenge these stereotypes and celebrate the positive aspects of apprenticeships such as avoiding student debt, earning while learning and progressing up the career ladder from within an organisation.
At Nationwide we offer higher and advanced apprenticeships where apprentices can achieve qualifications which are the equivalent to degree and A level respectively. The belief that apprentices languish at the bottom of the career ladder, limited to staying with one company for life is certainly not the case at Nationwide. As student debt soars and guaranteed jobs for post-graduates increasingly become a thing of the past, the apprenticeship career path should certainly be held in high esteem.
Although people tend to think of apprentices as being young people - our research shows that only 1% of people asked associated apprenticeships with people aged between 35-40 - paying a fair wage makes the scheme a real option for older people looking for a career change or someone who is returning from work after a period of time.
“Apprenticeship opportunities at Nationwide are open to people of all ages and because we pay them the Living Wage which is £8.25 per hour (£15,015 per year) as opposed to the minimum apprentice wage (£3.30 per hour) then it really is an option which older people who aren’t financially supported by their parents are able to consider.”
Another way in which our scheme differs from those of lots of other employers is that we offer our apprentices permanent contracts from the start - underlining the fact that if you’re an apprentice at Nationwide then you have a role, responsibility and accountability - you’re treated as a valued member of the Society and are paid and respected as such.
Whatever your age, if you’re looking at career options and you’re not sure what to do, find out about what apprenticeship schemes are available out there. It’s time to challenge those misconceptions about apprenticeships and highlight just what a great alternative career path they really are.
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