Mapped out long-term career paths in technical or leadership roles are just some of the propositions facing apprentice at Sweett Group, Doulas McCormick outlines how and why such attractive professional offers are being put before earners and learners.

The latest report from the UKCES talks of the Death of the Saturday Job, with more students than ever turning away from part-time work in favour of focussing on exam results and grades.

While this may appear to be a logical course of action to boost employment prospects, the simple fact is — it isn’t.

Research from UKCES has repeatedly shown that what employers really value is experience. Last year UKCES carried out a survey of 18,000 UK employers, of all those that had recruited in the past 12 months two thirds (66 per cent) said having work experience was a critical or significant factor in their decisions. By opting for grades over experience, young people are pitching themselves to the minority.

Experience is clearly more than just a checkbox on the employer wish list. So how do apprenticeships stand up as a solution?

The apprenticeship programme has been hugely successful for Sweett Group, but this success has not been without its share of challenges

Having started my own career as an apprentice, I have first-hand experience of the benefits that apprenticeship programmes bring to businesses, and society as a whole.

In 2014, Sweett Group launched its Quantity Surveying Apprenticeship Programme, in partnership with The Construction Industry Training Board and Havering College. So far the programme has recruited 10 apprentices, and is looking to recruit a further 10 in September.

The apprenticeship programme has been hugely successful for Sweett Group, but this success has not been without its share of challenges.

Putting in place an effective structure and rolling out the delivery of a high quality apprenticeship programme is time-consuming. However, the benefits outweigh the challenges, as businesses are left with trained young people that have hands-on business experience who will make for better, more productive employees.

One of the major benefits of an apprenticeship is a stronger, longer lasting link between employees and employers. Indeed, research shows two thirds of apprentices stay on with their employer after completing their apprenticeship.

At Sweett Group, we have implemented structured apprenticeship programmes, which involve mapped out long-term career paths in technical or leadership roles. Beyond this we also have dedicated and trained mentors; we’ve put in place rotation schemes, have regular group training sessions and Q&As with senior practitioners, and provide intense personal and pastoral support.

It is clear the government’s current skills priorities focus on apprenticeships. Although welcome, their ambition to create 3m new apprenticeships must not be achieved at the expense of quality.

One solution is for employers to take charge, enabled by government, to develop sector-based approaches that result in apprenticeships being a high-quality earning and learning career pathway for young people and a normal way for businesses to recruit and develop their future talent.

We are already seeing evidence of sector-based approaches in the form of ‘Trailblazing’ groups of employers in England that are designing new apprenticeship standards and assessment approaches.