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Thursday, September 16, 2021
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    SKILLS FOR LIFE

    Phil Howard at Intequal examines how you can ensure your apprentice makes the most of the time spent learning their profession.

    Whether you’re upskilling your existing team or bringing in fresh talent, apprenticeships can be an excellent way of driving innovation and providing your teams with the latest skills and fresh ideas.

    Entry-level recruitment is difficult in any sector – you’re often hiring on potential rather than industry-proven skills, and in the hope that the education that has been completed before the new hire starts will provide the necessary soft skills to hit the ground running when they enter the workplace.

    But in fast-moving digital roles this is even more of a challenge. What is new and cutting-edge today will be old news very quickly, and for this reason increasing numbers of employers are choosing to invest time in training a digital apprentice. By taking this approach individuals learn the company and the sector by working alongside colleagues but also absorb knowledge and skills in short sprints which they can instantly apply in the workplace as they go.

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    But employers too have a responsibility to help young apprentices make the most of their time learning their chosen profession – ensuring that they are effectively set on the path to success from an early age.

    Here we look at a few factors that can help to ensure an apprentice hits the ground running:

    Online learning

    Online learning has become increasingly prevalent over the last 12 months. Some of this is down to changes in the workplace that have taken place on the back of the coronavirus pandemic and made remote working the norm. But make no mistake – much of this would have happened regardless.

    In many ways, the young people we’re working with today are hard-wired to thrive in this new world of work. They’re digital natives comfortable with using tech like Microsoft Teams to collaborate with others and manage projects and workflows.

    However, online learning on its own is not a like-for-like replacement for in-person sessions – rather it is a different approach that needs to be thought through carefully in order to be successful. It certainly shouldn’t be a case of simply converting existing materials so that they can be accessed online – the learner deserves and expects a richer more interactive experience.

    Ofsted said similar in its annual report when it stated: “Online education needs to be well integrated into the provider’s curriculum offer in order to work effectively.”

    For this to be the case there needs to be a real focus on quality teaching and tutor-led interactive online training models with individualised programmes which are employer-led and specifically designed to support the occupation in which the apprentice is being trained.

    Structured learning

    Apprenticeship positions should offer a structured and transparent learning plan which allows them to have a full understanding of their development and clear goals to work towards. They can then use this as they build their skills incrementally while simultaneously implementing their learnings in real-world practice.

    The best apprenticeships are built on continued communication and constant feedback, something that younger workers often crave from a new role, giving them the best possible opportunity to meet the high standards of their employer and deliver ROI at a faster rate.

    This professional development alongside continued learning of new and relevant skills is an investment which both the apprentice and the employer benefit from. Apprentice retention rates often exceed the average with apprentices far more likely to stay with the business in the long-term.

    Embedded into the company culture from the get-go, these apprentices are trained in established ways of working within the business – meaning that they’ll work in the right way to make an impact within the company.

    Cross-generational learning

    Young apprentices can become an important part of a cross-generational group that can provide a toolkit of workers with different strengths – helping to create a dynamic and diverse team.

    In this way knowledge transfer, through both traditional learning and development and alternative methods such as reverse mentoring schemes, can add real value to an apprentice’s time with a business. Not only does it provide them with knowledge gained through years of experience, but it allows them to give something back to the business and share knowledge gained through their course.

    Apprentices often bring new ways of approaching tasks to the table – and as digital natives they are already well equipped to adapt to new technologies and ways of working. By allowing them to reverse mentor more senior colleagues, they are able to share theories learned on their course and equip other members of the team with newfound skills and knowledge that they can use to increase business productivity.

    In return this provides apprentices with the opportunity to gain confidence and develop soft skills such as communication which will serve them well throughout their future career.

    It is worth remembering that it is not just practical skills, but also variances in the attitudes and motivations of these different age groups that can make reverse mentoring schemes successful. When recognised and harnessed, these differences can create a stronger united force for approaching tasks.

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