At the end of 2022, Youth MP Izzy Garbutt (Wigan and Leigh), stood up in the House of Commons calling for a ‘curriculum for life’. She wanted to see a curriculum that places less focus on the quadratic equation and more emphasis on life skills: how to complete a tax return, look after your mental health and execute valued skills in the workplace.
By the end of the year, ministers had taken steps to reduce or remove traineeship opportunities in a move that goes directly against what young people like Izzy are calling for. As the workforce crisis in the UK deepens and further education choices reduced, there is now a renewed need to make UK Apprenticeships a priority for education ministers as only remaining pathway to a skilled labour pool.
We know that Apprenticeships are a hugely valuable section of the UK workforce and will have a significant impact on British industry for decades to come, and for those in trade-based companies especially, they are essential to futureproof business.
Taking on an inexperienced entry-level candidate might feel like a lot of work but should be seen as a chance to give candidates the opportunity to grow and train as a specialist in the industry. For some employers, the funding and support to build an employee’s skill set to meet specific company standards or skills gaps is the ideal solution to staff recruitment and retention issues.
“Here at Wickes, we value the flexibility Apprenticeships give us, from the entry Level 2 programmes all the way up to the Level 7 degree,” says Pauleigh Eversden, Early Careers Coach at Wickes and employer partner to Qube Learning.
“We have apprentices working across all levels; some joining us as employees from other companies and some as school leavers, some looking for a career change and some moving into their next role within Wickes.”
From a resourcing perspective, Wickes’ approach to Apprenticeships applied at all career stages is a valuable one. Trade employers must attract new talent to enable survival through the current economic downturn and the industry must promote the variety of roles that are available within the kitchen and bathroom environment.
Employers demonstrating a clear progression within their business will be ahead of competitors who cannot – and the structure of an Apprenticeship is an attractive opportunity to young people to earn and learn. With the breadth of Apprenticeship programmes available, employers can support employees to progress, building a future pipeline of management.
“Apprenticeships particularly support our kitchens and bathrooms team. We have a hugely successful ‘Becoming a Design Consultant’ Level 3 programme (130 course completions) that supports our colleagues to become the next generation of designers, helping our customers’ dream projects come to life,” continues Pauleigh.
“We are also incredibly proud of our industry leading Installer programme, building skills in kitchen installation with the goal of apprentices setting up their own installation business upon completion. This programme continues to grow in strength and has now seen 17 apprentices successfully complete their course, with a further 41 in training.
“Apprenticeships really help us support the next generation of talent whilst making sure that we support social mobility across all areas.”
Additionally, employers can utilise Apprenticeship funding to help develop staff within their business, including roles in customer services, administration, and team leadership. There are Apprenticeship courses such as Customer Service Practitioner, HR Support, Project Management, and Chartered Manager which build skillsets applicable across industry.
It’s imperative that the next generation can access the skills they need to form the workforce of tomorrow and alternative pathways such as Apprenticeships provide a different learning experience – a curriculum for life that the UK desperately needs.