The Apprentice!

It’s that time of year again – the leaves are turning and Lord Sugar is back on our TV screens with 20 aggressive new hopefuls on the new series of The Apprentice.

As we watch keenly to see which of them makes the grade and which gets the finger pointed at them, the spotlight falls on the real apprentice schemes which have given half a million people a chance of gaining a recognised qualification while earning a salary.

From SME’s to multinationals, the apprentice scheme is catching on, but recruitment specialists The Works are still dealing with a gap in the specialist skills market, particularly in engineering. Chairman and founder of The Works, Craig Burton believes that more youngsters should be encouraged into apprentice schemes to fill this skill shortage, despite the intial low wages. “The minimum wage for a 16 yr old school leaver on the apprentice scheme is currently £2.73 which I admit doesn’t sound a lot, but it’s over £100 in your pocket at the end of the week” says Craig.

“The scheme can provide training in the kind of skillset like engineering that we constantly see a lack of. Along with on the job training, a foot in the door, being an apprentice teaches you about the responsibilities of working and will, in most cases, lead to a step up the ladder once completed”.

“Rolls-Royce has had an Apprenticeship programme for over 100 years with five Apprenticeship programmes in the UK. In 2013 recruited nearly 300 apprentices, bringing the number to over 1000 apprentices on its programmes around the world, so we have to change our opinions of apprentice schemes as just another number crunching exercise by the government to reduce unemployment figures. My theory wold be to market the schemes to the parents as much as the students, parents being the influencing factor that they are” continues Craig.

Why Choose An Apprentice Scheme?

Apprentice schemes are catching on with the top band of academic achievers, many of whom are now eschewing traditional university courses in favour of an apprenticeship with one of the UK’s leading firms. Rather than incur student debts of up to £30,000, the real-life apprentices can bag salaries of up to £25,000 although most starting salaries are likely to be between £7000 and £15,000.

Wages tend to rise with each year of work and study, with an apprentice at Unilever starting on £13,400 but ending on £24,000 at the end of the three-year programme.

It’s not hard to see the appeal of such schemes, a coveted place on the National Grid’s engineering apprenticeship scheme pays around £23,500 rising to £30,000 after two years, with a company car thrown into the mix. Obviously, competition is high for these top schemes and they are often more highly subscribed than a place at Oxford. Top students with A* grades at GCSE and A Level compete to hear the words “You’re hired”.

It worked for me

One such lucky person was Leeds teenager Meghan Gallagher, who has been working on an apprentice scheme in the Audit department with Baker Tilly, Leeds for two years. Meghan is studying for an AAT qualification and started out by gaining a work experience placement with the firm, joining after leaving school with her A Levels. Meghan explains how the scheme has given her the opportunity for real hands on learning.

“As part of my induction process I learnt all about Baker Tilly on a national level; the firm as a whole, its strategies, aims, goals and where I as an individual fit into that.”
The government backed apprentice scheme covers all areas of work, from Agriculture to Arts and Media. Vacancies are posted regularly on the internet such as the website, which lists apprentice schemes in and around Leeds.

Want to know more ?

Despite the obvious success stories of the scheme, more companies do need to sign up and be a part of it. A recent YouGov poll suggested that apprentices are crucial to the survival of the UK’s smaller firms.

Three quarters of senior decision makers at the UK’s small-to-medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) said that apprentices were necessary for the future success of their businesses. However, only one in five plan to recruit more apprentices or graduates in the next year.

The poll suggested three reasons for this reluctance to hire and train new talent: 30pc of SMEs don’t have the cash to invest in an apprenticeship scheme; 37pc blame low awareness among young people about the opportunities afforded by the SME sector; and 44pc think graduates and apprentices are more interested in working for bigger business.

If your company is interested in offering an apprenticeship, Government-run websites and the National Careers Service can provide information and advice.

For up to date vacancies and more info visit