Feb 21, 2017

The Value of Apprenticeships in Boosting Digital Career Prospects

by Digital Marketing Institute

“Running an apprenticeship scheme helps create a dedicated, loyal workforce.The energy we see from apprentices who come into the job, eager to learn and climb the ladder is infectious.” – Elaine Arden, Chief HR Officer, Royal Bank of Scotland

At a time when digital talent is at a premium, businesses and governments are looking for new ways to source and cultivate talent. While apprenticeships are not a new phenomenon, there has been a resurgence in recent years as certain skills have become more important and less available in the growing digital economy.

While many countries are struggling to combat the growing skills shortage, the UK is investing in an ambitious initiative through the Tech Partnership that aims to deliver the digital skills for a million tech jobs by 2025. By joining forces with companies such as O2 the partnership hopes to help the UK become a fully digital nation, worth £63 billion to the GDP.

In contrast across the water in the U.S., despite more than 3 million students graduating each year, the U.S. is lagging behind considerably when it comes to addressing the skills shortage through on-the-job training. Only 125,000 apprenticeships open annually, a mere 4% compared to 40-80% in other high-income countries - such as the UK.

By 2020, it is believed that nearly two-thirds of all jobs will require some form of post-secondary education or training. In the U.S. this means that more Americans are going to college or seeking some other type of educational credential, such as a certification or industry-recognized credential. So, with a demand across industries for particular expertise and know-how, could apprenticeships provide the skills that professionals want and employers need?

A Proven Recruitment Technique

A Proven Recruitment Technique | The Value of Apprenticeships in Boosting Digital Career Prospects

Apprenticeships have been used for many years with great success. The effectiveness of such recruitment schemes is one of the main reasons they have managed to withstand the test of time. Through an apprentice program, it is possible to recruit new employees, retrain existing employees or add to the skillsets of existing staff members.

Jobseekers who take part in programs frequently go on to have fruitful and valuable careers. In fact, apprentices can earn up to 270% more over their lifetime compared to university graduates. In return, these workers prove to be better employees, live happier lives and are able to contribute positively to their country’s economy and GDP.

For employers, 59% in the UK report that training apprentices is more cost-effective than hiring skilled staff and leads to lower overall training costs and reduce recruitment costs. In terms of the ROI, 41% say that apprentices make a valuable contribution to the business, while a further third report that apprentices add value within their first few weeks with a high proportion progressing to management positions within the company.

For many organizations, apprenticeships are an effective and cost-efficient strategy to build their current and future workforce. In addition to lower recruitment and relocation costs, it can enable employers to develop strong talent pipelines.

For every $1 invested in apprenticeship, employers get $1.47 back in benefits – U.S. Department of Labor

Improved Staff Retention

The cost of hiring digitally skilled workers can be enormous. Companies that rely heavily on their IT employees need these individuals to be reliable. A high turnover can be disastrous for any business, especially startups.

Apprenticeships help companies—including those in the digital realm—to greatly improve their employee retention rates. A recent study concluded that 91% of apprentices remained employed or continued their education six months after the apprenticeship was completed. 75% of those that completed the apprenticeship remained employed with the same company.

Take PwC as an example. Through its apprenticeship program, the UK branch of the global company provides employees with hands-on work experience along with educational learning. As a result, PwC empowers people to become skilled professionals with 86% of those completing the PwC apprenticeship program remaining with the organization. When comparing this to the 68% of college graduates that move on to other careers, this retention rate is quite extraordinary.

Bridging the Gap

Bridging the Gap | The Value of Apprenticeships in Boosting Digital Career Prospects

In the U.S. and U.K., companies have been forced to look abroad for skilled workers. While this has created a great deal of controversy, it has become a necessity for growth. Just recently, TechUK concluded that 93% of tech firms agreed that employee skills-gap negatively impacted their business in one way or another. It is estimated that more than 1.2 million UK businesses are underperforming due to insufficient digital awareness and a lack of necessary skills.

Not only can UK businesses benefit from apprenticeships, it can also spur the economy to improve. A recent report suggests that the UK economy could gain as much as £14 billion by investing more in digital skills.

For example, take IT, graduates. While hugely in demand, the skills required are usually niche such as cloud computing, UX and analytics. As a result, those with these specific skills are often given priority as it adds value to the business. With such professionals in mind, the Firebrand Apprenticeship was developed to help advance careers with leading IT companies by matching individuals with a company to learn skills that can be used within the business and help the apprentice.

With digital skills at the forefront of many businesses minds, a Digital Apprenticeship Board has been created that brings together tech and non-tech employers with the goal of making sure organizations have access to high-quality tech and digital apprenticeships.

Job Specific Training

While college has proven to be an effective way to prepare students for the workforce, many economists suggest that hands-on experience can be far more beneficial. Through apprenticeships, businesses are able to provide their employees with training that is specially designed for specific job functions.

As one of the world’s leading multinational banking and financial institutions, JP Morgan Chase & Co. strives to provide reputable, honest and reliable financial services to its customers. To achieve this it launched an apprenticeship program 3 years ago to provide young people with the opportunity to become a financier.

Job Specific Training | The Value of Apprenticeships in Boosting Digital Career Prospects

The JP Morgan Bournemouth Apprenticeship program provides opportunities for individuals who desire hands-on work experience. Participants will get an up-close look at how the company operates and learn specific skills that can help them thrive in the financial industry.

When it comes to digital skills, companies can provide their apprentice with job-specific training which will ultimately give workers a promising future with the company. More importantly, this ensures that the employee sees him or herself as a valuable asset.

The Future…

While only 505,000 of Americans entered into apprenticeship programs last year, certain states have started to ramp up their efforts to accommodate future demand. Iowa has an apprenticeship training fund of $3 million and is striving to become home to large data centers for Facebook and Microsoft. While California has established an Employment Training Panel which supports employer-provided training and has invested more than $30 million in a new Apprenticeship Training Pilot program to support new, nontraditional programs.

In the UK, efforts to address the skills shortage have been aggressive. Through the Digital Apprenticeship Service - due to launch this month - employers will be able to choose the types of apprenticeships they want to run, the number of apprentices they take on along with appropriate training providers.

For professionals, this provides a new way to get the education and training needed to be valuable employees. With apprenticeship seen as a long-term solution to skills shortages, the UK government plan to create an independent and employer-led body in 2017.

Closing Thoughts

Apprenticeship programs are the perfect opportunity for jobseekers looking to learn in-demand skills as they work in order to kickstart or progress their career. An apprenticeship not only addresses an industry need, but also provides individuals with the opportunity to train while earning a decent paycheck.

These programs combine classroom study with on-the-job training so participants can learn new skills quicker compared to bookwork. In fact, most apprenticeship programs offer graduates a full-time career after they graduate, which is something that is not offered by universities and vocational schools.


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