shutterstock 638186110

Will Universities soon have to fight Apprenticeship schemes for the best young talent?

The Apprenticeship vs University debate will always be a contentious and ongoing conversation for school and college leavers when it comes to making that important decision regarding their future. Do you spend 3 to 4 years of your life building up at least £27k of debt to gain a degree, or do you spend a minimum of a year earning whilst you learn? Not only are you gaining a qualification and a wage, you are also learning valuable skills and work experience to help with the career you want. As a recruiter, I can easily say that at least 90% of the jobs in my industry are focused on skills and experience rather than education.

In the past few years, a higher number of students in the UK are choosing the Apprenticeship route over University. But are we encouraging enough students to choose this option? Are we pushing the benefits and opportunities as much as we could? It has been reported from a number of employers and recruiters from a wide range of sectors that they have found it increasingly difficult to find the perfect skilled workers. It’s true, we are now in a skill short market. Could apprentices fill the gap?

Not only are we experiencing a skill shortage, but with the potential threat of Brexit, how will the UK employment market survive with the inability or reduced ability to employ overseas skilled workers for jobs that cannot be filled? This is valuable reason to promote and increase Apprenticeship take up.

An interesting view of the impact this could have was recently shared;

“In addition, a reduction in the number of skilled workers from abroad would force the Government and businesses to invest more in training British workers to replace those that leave. There is already a big emphasis on apprenticeships, but the challenge would be to provide the economy with the right skills that it needs and attract young Brits into those less glamorous industries that have struggled to recruit home-grown workers in recent years. Businesses, therefore, need to consider the time and costs required to train staff, and how they can work with education providers to get the skills they need.”

Not only do Apprenticeships provide learners with an extra qualification and skillsets, they also provide a boost to their confidence and professional identity. Before I began my career in Recruitment via an Apprenticeship I was terrified of the phone, never did I imagine that 4 years later I would be recruiting for an international market across 2 continents – definitely a huge personal achievement.

To show how the scheme has supported other individuals, both Apprentices and Managers at ARM, I spent some time speaking with them to understand their thoughts.

The Apprentices

  • Tamzyn Blake–Elliott. People Development Administrator – HR department. Business Administration level 2
  • Ulrika Lawrence. Junior Recruitment Consultant – Rail. Recruitment level 3
  • Emily Lucas. Contractor Support Administrator – Support department. Business Administration level 4

 How are you finding the qualification and the work load?

Tamzyn: The work load is fine, I recently moved job roles within the business so just settling in and going to be retaking my ICT Exam with Southdown’s so I have been revising in my own time for that.

Emily: Struggling to be quite honest! There’s a huge amount of research involved and the units don’t really relate to my role which makes things more difficult. The level 4 is all based around independent learning so there isn't a lot of support on offer and time management can be quite challenging!

Ulrika: I found it challenging but rewarding, as I was developing and able to use the knowledge I was learning in my day to day role. Time management is really important, as you need to balance your work/life balance and your learning!

Why did you choose to complete an Apprenticeship?

Emily: Career progression

Ulrika: I thought it was a great opportunity to learn the theoretical side of recruitment, to then be able to test my understanding in a practical situation as I learned different units.

What are the top 3 skills you will take forward in your career from the experience you have gained?


  1. Recruitment Skills – I didn't have a clue before now I know all about it!
  2. Emailing / Communication – I've really improved and learnt how to speak with all types of people and how to compose an email correctly.
  3. Confidence – I'm better at speaking to people and solving problems independently.


  1. Multi-tasking!
  2. Confidence
  3. Analytical skills


  1. Business acumen
  2. A understanding of employment related legislation
  3. Capturing clients’ needs in meetings and over the phone

 What advice would you give to someone considering an Apprenticeship?

Tamzyn: I think if you are going to choose an Apprenticeship you need to be dedicated, it isn’t just about going to work and getting a qualification for free. It’s about learning and expanding your skills within the Workplace but you are also completing a Qualification at the same time, so you need to be skilled at managing your time and organising when you can fit in completing all the units. It’s a brilliant opportunity for improving a variety of skills as nothing is better than actually doing the job itself in order to learn all about it.

Emily: Research the qualification and try to get a real understanding of the volume of work involved. Also, choose something you enjoy and that relates to your chosen career.

Ulrika: Make sure that you plan your study time in manageable chunks over the whole course. If you leave things too late, you can find yourself trying to catch up and in a bit of a panic!

The Management


  • John Dunaway – Managing Director of Specialist Markets, Engineering and Technology
  • David James – Director of Engineer
  • Derek Goff – Learning & Development Manager

What value do you feel that Apprentices have brought to ARM?

John: Whilst we have always supported the hiring of, and investment in fresh talent, this scheme has given us more purpose and structure and made a statement about how passionate we are regarding apprenticeships.  This has brought new ideas and energy into the business which our customers really benefit from.

David: All the apprentices ARM have brought on so far have shown a real enthusiasm for the job and hunger to succeed. We have seen the hard work and energy from the apprentices that is required in the recruitment industry.

Derek: I feel that the apprenticeship programme has provided an objective, robust continuous assessment for new recruits to the organisation, and this is something that often, managers are not able to deliver consistently. This is often down to time and resources, so the apprenticeship programme meets that need entirely. The individuals who are on the programme, or have completed it, have shown a new level of commitment to their role and we have seen increased levels of competence sooner than expected. As the L&D Manager, my primary objective is to reduce the time and cost to competence and I feel the programme helps meet this important objective.


Do you think that Apprenticeships can kill the skill shortage?

John: Absolutely.  My preference for hiring is about values, behaviours and cultural alignment.  This is more achievable with apprentices because the individuals and employers make a long-term, reciprocal commitment to each other, and grow together.  This drives investment from both parties to learn and develop, which can increase the number of skilled individuals in each field.

David: Apprenticeships are a great way to add more skills to any industry and are good alongside a mix of other recruitment methods such as graduates and experienced hires.

Derek: Absolutely yes, providing employers engage apprentices for that very reason, and not just for a cheaper employment alternative. We have so many grad’s leaving university with amazing degrees, but they have no work experience and are unable to demonstrate a track record that proves they have the skills to do the job.


In the past, there have been mixed opinions whether Apprentices are worth the investment or not.  Knowing what you know now, would you have considered completing one yourself? Or recommend to friends or family members? If so, why?  

John: I applied for an apprenticeship many years ago but they weren't as developed as they are today.  I believe that a blend of academic and on the job learning is the best path.  I have recently recommended some friends to go for apprenticeships.

David: I would recommend them for recruitment as I do not believe a degree is necessary to become a recruitment consultant. If future apprenticeships also show the hard work as we have seen with our current intake then I think they are a worthwhile investment.

Derek: I would love to complete a Degree apprenticeship, but currently there isn’t one relevant to my role or future aspirations. My son completed an apprenticeship and now earns more than I do at 27 years old, and my nephew has just enrolled onto the Rolls-Royce apprenticeship programme beating 400 other applicants for one of four places. If they are managed properly and the training is delivered in a way that capitalises on the learners’ ability and aspirations, they are a great investment and in my view, very much the way forward.


What advice would you give to someone considering an Apprenticeship?

John: Whilst the support and structure are there, don’t expect it to be easy.  It is deliberately challenging to set high standards, so stick with it and don’t lose sight of the wonderful opportunity you have now and in the future.

David: Be prepared to put the effort in and learn while working.

Derek: Don’t do it as a stop gap or because you can’t think of anything else. It needs to be your focused route to a promising career in your chosen field. You need to work hard and study outside of work time. You would be doing this at University anyway and racking up tens of thousands of pounds worth of debt.


Any additional comments or thoughts?

John: I think there is more education to be done around apprenticeships for both employers and potential apprentices.  The word ‘apprentice’ is slightly dated, when in reality it is a very modern and prestigious development path.  I would like to see the government make more noise about their target of ‘3 million new apprenticeships by 2020’.

Derek: I truly believe that the culture of apprenticeships is changing for the better, and in ten years they will fiercely compete with universities for the best talent in the UK.