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Entry- Level Routes into Work

Tim Campbell

To review the original article click here 8th Nov 2017

University has long been regarded as a prerequisite to specific careers. Apprenticeships were traditionally viewed as a route to a trade. However, this is changing and on-the-job training can now propel talent along the gold-paved road to endless opportunity.

According to research by the Education & Skills Funding Agency, higher apprentices could earn £150,000 more on average over their lifetime compared to those with level 3 vocational qualifications. Causing the Government to turn their attention to the introduction of a levy to improve alternative routes into the workforce.  Conversely, entering a company at graduate level doesn’t mean career stability anymore – nor can it guarantee it will pay off mounting debts.

The levy came into force this April, and since, there has been much debate on how best businesses can utilise it. Speaking at a TARGET jobs event, Philip Taylor Marketing Manager for the City of London’s Corporation apprenticeship programmes, explains how rising tuition fees are deterring talent from pursuing degree level education, and that the apprenticeship schemes on offer today, provide a cheaper and more focused route into their chosen career.

Last year, a survey by the Association of Graduate Recruiters witnessed the first decline in graduate jobs since 2009 Head of Clients Services at Alexander Mann Solutions Tim Campbell, says their research found 71% of employers foresee that the levy will ultimately create a new route into the workplace to supplement or rival graduate intake.


Jenny Taylor, UK Graduate, Apprenticeship and Student Programme Leader at IBM, agrees and believes that it’s time to address misconceptions about apprenticeships being an alternative for non-academic students. She explains, “The benefits to pupils opting for this career route are numerous, including a guaranteed salary and no debt to name a few. Apprentices have great value in sought after technology roles too, particularly given the skills shortage we are facing.They can learn deep technical skills on the job, in real life situations and often progress rapidly up the career ladder. In the last few years, we have also found that apprenticeship retention in high and they are highly values employees. Not only that – they often outperform graduates and nice qualified – are distinguishable from other technical specialists, bringing a new a fresh face approach into a workplace.”

However, as Helen Loy, Head of HR at the Stag Company points out: “”As an SME with vast product range, we’ve found that our graduate scheme has helped us to fill vacancies where we need people to have a strong ability to learn a huge amount quickly. As graduates are joining us after completing their degree studies, they are still in the mode of paying great attention to detail and producing work of a high standard. Their eagerness and hunger to achieve brings a positive impact to the working environment. Taking on graduates means that we can guarantee a period of employment of a minimum of 2 years.”

Despite this, research by XpertHR has found that nine out of ten (87.1%) employers are having problems finding suitable graduate recruits. Many employers were critical of the calibre of applicants, with more than two-fifths (44.2%) complaining about the poor quality of knowledge, skills and experiences. Managing Editor for pay and HR practice at XpertHR, Sheila Attwood, believes that the economic squeeze could be to blame: “The evidence shows that pay has not kept pace with rising prices over recent years, and in common with other employees, (graduates) will feel the squeeze. It is also interesting to note that employers who report the greatest difficulties recruiting typically also pay below the median (£24,000)”.

Campbell adds that a major consequence of the levy is likely to be a re-definition of the term ‘apprentice’, with a new breed of apprentices soon overtaking those who go to university. For example, degree level apprenticeships allow individuals to train for four years with a good salary, making this level of qualification accessible to a larger proportion of people.

Yet, will this spell the end for degree-level qualifications? With degrees dropping in value and tuition fees rising, surely more school leavers will view apprenticeships as a more viable route? Compounding this, a study by the Resolution Foundation found that in 2016, 35.6% of grads were doing non-graduate jobs.

Karen Bates, HR Director at Opus Energy however, believes that there is value in both, and it’s up to employers to place them in the right role, offering relevant career progression: “Gradates may have more life experience and this maturity is valuable in the workplace. However, graduates tend to have higher expectations and are more likely to move between companies.

Apprentices on the other hand, may have more to prove and are therefore more willing to learn and be moulded to the needs of a business. What apprentices lack in experience is likely to be made up for in greater loyalty.”


For more expert insights into the Levy, check out our webinar and white paper!

The Big Discussion | Apprenticeship Levy webinar with Tim Campbell and Sue Husband, Director of the National Apprenticeship Service, Skills Funding Agency explores the impact of the Levy, what it has changed so far, and the future of the Emerging Talent landscape.

Our Apprenticeship Levy White Paper, shares experts insight from talent leaders at some of the UK's largest blue-chip organisations such as Santander, Capgemini, Barclays, BT, HSBC, Jaguar Land Rover, GE and BAE Systems among others. Don't miss it!

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