National Apprenticeship Week 2022: Why an Apprenticeship?

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In conversation with one of the REC’s Chief Examiners and ‘World’s Oldest Apprentice’ Derek Goff

Do apprenticeships have an age limit? Do you have to be a certain type of person to take one on? How do I prepare to apply for an apprenticeship, and why should I?


What is the purpose of an apprenticeship?

Apprentice is not a job title. Treating apprentices as a source of cheap labour and an easy fix undermines the whole purpose of the qualification—apprenticeships add value for both the employer and the individual, but only when used in the correct way. At Serocor, our apprentices are employees first and foremost. They are paid above the apprenticeship wage, and even their title ‘Junior Recruitment Consultant’ is designed to reflect their place within the company.

How have the 2016 Apprenticeship Standards shifted the working landscape?

I may be a little biased, considering I chaired the trailblazer group with Serocor as the lead (a group of 20 employers within the recruitment industry) which devised the criteria for the apprenticeship Standard. Yet I feel in recruitment especially that there has been increased recognition of apprenticeships as a robust training and assessment technique. We’re seeing shorter time-to-competence, and an overall professionalisation/upskilling of our employees. Having identified the key knowledge, skills and behaviours we wish to instil through training practices, we now see these rippling across the rest of the company, which can only improve things.

What common misconceptions would you like to dispel?

The central misconception I would like to address would be the supposed age limitation on apprenticeships. Of course, apprenticeships do hold a lot of benefit for young people starting out in an industry, equipping them with the foundations for a solid career trajectory, and allowing them to earn whilst they learn which is honestly invaluable. However, apprenticeships have broader potential than we often give them credit for. They are available (and funded!) for all age groups and experience levels, enabling people like myself who have been in their industry for over a decade to branch out, develop, and keep learning. After all, learning can only ever be a good thing.

How do you feel personally that apprenticeships have impacted you?

I’ve learnt more in the last year on my apprenticeship than in the previous five before that, about my industry but also about myself. For starters, I am much more resilient than I gave myself credit for, and had so much more room to develop than I anticipated. My apprenticeship journey was sparked by the pandemic, and fears that as a result of restrictions my training-based role would become obsolete, but also feelings of complacency. I was good at my job, and that was enough. But the apprenticeship has been a wake-up call, and a much-needed one. I have increased my employment value, opened so many new doors for myself, and pushed into new and exciting arenas I previously felt unequipped for. It has changed my life.

What is the apprentice recruitment process like?

When recruiting apprentices, my key question centres upon whether there is a lack of skill, or a lack of will. A lack of skill I can work with—if you’re motivated, and willing to get training, companies will want to take you on. A lack of will, however, I can’t help you with. So, before interview, before we bring you in to meet the team, make sure to firstly read up on the company—will they fit your training needs? Do they have a work environment you feel would be conducive to your professional development?—but also consider your own motivations for undertaking the qualification in the first place. Autonomy? Potential to push yourself with structure? Wish to develop a new or rusty skill? Finally, be sure to check out the Apprenticeship Standard official guidelines—they will have all the knowledge, skills & behaviours which you are looking to work on listed right there.