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National Apprenticeship Week: Supporting people learning new skills

At this time of year many people often consider a new career. Apprenticeships can be a great way to do this.

At this time of year many people often consider a new career. In fact, new* research has showed that more than two in five people (43%) would like to change careers, either for more job satisfaction (40%), try a new challenge (35%), or do something more meaningful (42%).

Apprenticeships can be a great way to do this, providing opportunities to gain qualifications while earning a salary. But for a quarter of people (27%), a lack of self-belief is holding them back, while others are concerned about financial pressures, struggling with the learning side, or that apprenticeships are ‘just for school leavers’.

Here is some advice* on how to support your people while they undertake an apprenticeship.

Support apprentices with learning
A lot of apprentices I speak to are concerned about the learning. For some people, full time education may feel like a long time ago, while others might worry about using technology or unfamiliar essay writing techniques. But that shouldn’t hold anyone back.

Make sure your apprentices know where to go for help with their studies, whether you have a dedicated team member for them to speak to, or up to date resources on completing and submitting assignments.

Apprentices will also benefit from supporting each other, so think about ways you can help them bond and collaborate with others at their level – for example, creating a buddy or mentor system, connecting new starters with those who have more experience. If you have an intranet, encourage them to join groups or forums, or think about arranging informal get togethers.

Be flexible
For many people the prospect of balancing work, life and study can be daunting, particularly when adapting to a new routine at the same time. Work with your apprentices to find out how they work best, and support them to implement it.

Some people might benefit from a dedicated working-from-home day to complete assignments, while others might prefer to complete them on the go while the information is fresh in their minds. And some people might want face-to-face check ins, or others might be more comfortable being more independent.

However your apprentice likes to work, remember to encourage a good work/life balance, including time to relax and recharge. Finding the time to switch off from our busy lives is really important to protect against things like burn out, anxiety and stress.

Be aware of financial pressures
Although apprentices are investing in their futures long term, we know that many are worried about additional cost of living pressures, so some may need additional support while they complete the programme.

Think about how your organisation can adapt to help. For example, by signposting to government schemes that they might be entitled to, or adapting working practices. Working or learning from home might help with commuting costs, or lending office equipment to apprentices or providing free or subsidised food and drink. Make sure your apprentices know about the support your company can offer and how to access it.

Be proactive with health and wellbeing
Supporting apprentices to maintain good physical and mental health has never been more important. Fostering a workplace culture where everyone can be open about their health is a great start, and helps support happy, healthy productive employees who will want to stay long term.

At Bupa we encourage people to bring their full selves to work, and this is one of the key reasons why our talent retention is so high: 80% of our apprentices continue to work at Bupa after their apprenticeship ends.

You can also support your apprentice by ensuring that they’ve got access to employee wellbeing services, like Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs), GP appointments or health assessments.

People who feel that their organisation takes an active interest in their wellbeing are more likely to stay motivated, engaged and loyal.

Recognise the value of apprentices
At Bupa we’re one of the largest employers of apprentices. Last year we placed 1,700 apprentices in our business across 37 different apprenticeship programmes. Apprentices are integral to our business, helping us provide high quality care and services to our customers, patients and residents, and we learn just as much from them as they do from us.

It’s vital that businesses recognise the value that apprentices bring, and make the most out of the apprenticeship levy funding. Create a supportive culture that nurtures your apprentices, and make sure this culture extends to your partners and training providers too; viewing them as an extension of your team.

Remember to celebrate the milestones, achievements and hard work of your apprentices. Recognition goes a long way in nurturing talent, which is good for people and good for business.

*BUPA Research conducted by OnePoll among 2,000 UK employed adults, January 2024

Advice provided from Hoosen-Webber, Chief People & Procurement Officer, Bupa Global & UK

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