Breaking the apprenticeship taboo: Why reskilling begins at 40by
The lack of information and awareness around adult apprenticeship schemes for the over 30s has created something of a stigma. Isn’t it time to see this route as a viable means of improving the UK skills shortfall?
'You’re never too old to try something new', or so the saying goes. However, the UK maintains a stigma towards adults and apprenticeships, and this seemingly comes down to a lack of knowledge and understanding, which is ironic to say the least.
The UK is at a crossroads. Brexit and the Covid-19 pandemic have contributed to the recent chaos caused by our skills shortage. Misconceptions within our own education systems and society have also added to a stigma where our workforce feel uncomfortable undertaking an apprenticeship or training programme to learn or develop skills and qualifications that in turn promote career development and success.
Once you enter the job market, advice on apprenticeships isn’t readily available with many employers and learners unaware of the options available to them
Contrary to popular belief, an apprenticeship is not just for 16-18-year-olds. In fact, there is no upper age limit, and anyone can start an apprenticeship at any time. Whether they are looking to start their first job, or upskill in a new area completely, apprenticeships can support everything from promotions to learning skills in a new trade. It’s now time for individuals to reap the benefits of apprenticeships and it all starts with a shift in mindset.
Part of the problem is that for many, apprenticeships are only spoken about while we are at school or college. And even then, students lack clear career advice with high achievers steered towards university and the less academic towards apprenticeships.
Once you enter the job market, advice on apprenticeships isn’t readily available with many employers and learners unaware of the options available to them, or the opportunities it will open up to them.
An apprenticeship in reality is a job with training, offering programmes for upskilling or reskilling, and ultimately offering opportunities for promotion, progression, job security and higher pay. On average, an apprenticeship scheme costs less money and takes less time than the average university degree, and an apprentice earns and learns at the same time.
During 2019 and 2020, 47 per cent of all apprenticeships started were by people aged 25 and over
With the government already conceding to a mere 25 per cent of current undergraduate students paying back their loan in full, the sensible solution we are flying the flag for apprenticeships and promote apprenticeship programmes that offer learners the skills and knowledge that employers want, rather than the vast amount of non-vocational studies many students opt to take while at university.
The demand for individuals with useful skills, knowledge and behaviours, is higher than ever, and for the learner, the benefits are clear. No student debt, a nationally recognised qualification, an opportunity to challenge yourself and learn whilst in full-time work, and perhaps most importantly, the confidence that your time and effort will be rewarded with a relevant job at the end of your studies.
Reskilling at 40
By way of definition, an apprenticeship is a way of learning a new trade or profession with on-the-job training and some additional at-home study. This makes learning incredibly accessible for all, whether that be for individuals already with busy work schedules or those with families to care for.
While available, it's worth noting that funding arrangements do differ for those over the age of 24, but that shouldn't be a deterrent, and in fact during 2019 and 2020, 47 per cent of all apprenticeships started were by people aged 25 and over.
Learners should be given the opportunity to pursue training that will enhance their career prospects
Whether individuals want to reskill at 20 or 50, choosing an apprenticeship shouldn't hold a stigma. If we look beyond the current national crisis and the UK’s worry over the skills shortage, people don’t always fall into the perfect job, or a role that is suited to their skill set immediately.
Equally passions can develop, and personal experiences can shape professional interests at any point in life. This could see office managers wishing to upskill into a role within the health and social care sector or gain knowledge in a different discipline like marketing to help pursue an internal career change.
Whatever the reason, learners should be given the opportunity to pursue training that will enhance their career prospects. Equally employers need to understand the benefits to their own organisation of promoting and engaging with programmes that will see their staff learn and develop whilst on the job and will assist them in retaining their people.
The start of something new
There are lots of funding opportunities for people and organisations to take advantage of. While the thought of undertaking an apprenticeship can be exciting, getting stuck in can seem difficult with applicants wondering where to start first.
What is clear is that organisations are desperate for people with the right skills to join, and it's crucial that all opportunities are pursued. It's true that not all funding streams are available to all learners, but there are many that are and it's important to educate both the business and the learner of these options and how they can access funding.
The stigma for those wishing to explore apprenticeships schemes will end, when businesses become more open to promoting them internally
There are many apprenticeships and training programmes in core sectors with funding for individuals to begin, and this includes social care, education, and general business, and offers individuals an opportunity to start something new.
The stigma for those wishing to explore apprenticeships schemes will end, when businesses become more open to promoting them internally and helping their employees to see the benefits that apprenticeships can bring. If more adults, young and old, are aware of the opportunities open to them, whether currently employed or in between jobs, we will see an end to this stigma with more and more choosing to reskill or retrain.
Interested in this topic? Read Reskilling: Why the UK needs to reform vocational education.
Jackie is MD and Founder of Professional Training Solutions and is passionate about assisting businesses to create the most skilled, efficient team through training and apprenticeships, maximising external funding wherever possible. Over the past few years, Jackie has:
- Delivered SFA and ESF funded projects, working with a range of ...