The world economy has been plunged into a recession, with spiralling debt only seen in the western world in times of war, writes Johanna Hamilton AMBCS.

It has been well documented that coronavirus has made the UK economy shrink by 9.7% in 2020. What has been less well documented is how apprenticeships can help employers and new learners get back on track in a post-COVID-19 and post-Brexit world.

Here’s a short overview of the panel discussion chaired by Lori French, Degree Apprentice Software Developer at IBM and winner of the UK IT Apprentice of the Year 2019 - talking about why apprenticeships are so valuable for growing companies as well exploring the benefits of growing individual skills.

The digital apprentice panellists included:

  • Chris Wotton of SB Digital (Level 4 Digital Marketeer)
  • Jade Lei of Click Digital Solutions (Level 4 Software Developer)
  • Danielle Scoble of JD Sports (just finished a Level 4 Data Analyst Apprenticeship)
  • Fidel Wright of Google (Infrastructure Technician)
  • Miya Siva of Google (Infrastructure Technician)
  • Pier Galeone of Google (Corporate Engineering Apprentice)

Overview of what the apprentices said…

On opportunity

Danielle Scoble: ‘I could earn enough to still support myself and learn at the same time… I got so much support from my employer, which was really important to me… It was an equal part of both learning and working. ‘

Chris Wootton: ‘The reason why I chose the apprenticeship route was just because it was a better way for me to learn. If I was going to go down the typical uni route, I don't think I would absorb that much information. I would just be essentially reading a stuff but not really taking it in. So, for me learning on the job is the way to go. [It’s helped me identify] what my strengths are and what my weaknesses are so having that close contact with my line manager has been so good because it just means that we can focus on improving different skill sets and really identify those skills are that need to be improved.’

On diversity

Miya Siva: ‘That’s why apprenticeships are so great you don’t have to go through several steps to get to the actual job – you are learning on the job. Your abilities and skills are talking for you rather than your CV… Apprenticeships are definitely a great way to get women and also people of colour into the roles and increasing diversity and inclusion in the workplace.’

Being the only female

Jade Lei: ‘The employers… can offer you so much support. When I first started, I was completely thrown into the deep end. I knew some basic things about web development, not a huge deal and I was the only female on the developing the team. But everyone was friendly and if I had any questions everyone would just jump on it and be so happy to help.’

University v Apprenticeships

Pier Galeone: ‘I did a degree in psychology then decided to do an apprenticeship at Google. I did a degree when I was younger and also an apprenticeship and can see the positives and negatives of both sides and I have to say at this point, I’m more in favour of doing apprenticeships… I have arguably got more out of my time as an apprentice than as a university student. Just being in a working environment just gives you so much more… you get the best of both worlds. The learning and the real world.’

Not just a vocational choice

Miya Siva: ‘Apprenticeships are recommended for school leavers that aren’t doing so well... but you can be a high achiever and still do an apprenticeship and obviously you’re going to go far as you can showcase much better skills… [and] there are degree apprenticeships.’

Apprenticeships don’t have age limits

Lori French: ‘The national apprenticeship awards website… [between] the youngest [apprenticeship] applicant and the oldest applicant, and there was at least a 30 year age gap…it’s so important the fact that they were reflecting that these opportunities aren’t siloed for school leavers… It’s so useful to have a broader representation of what apprenticeships look like... If you’re made redundant or you’re interested in tech or you’re older in your career, then why shouldn’t those apprenticeship opportunities be open to you?’

Access to better careers

Miya Siva: ‘[An apprenticeship isn’t] just cheap labour, it is an opportunity for someone to get access to a career they might not have unnecessary had access to... So advertise to a broader audience and also have a structured plan for when they join the company, so that they're set up to succeed in every way.’

Adding value as an apprentice

Fidel Wright: ‘We all shifted to working from home. It was new to us. It was new to Google and other companies and one thing that suffered with work from home was our team collaboration. We still had meeting calls, but our work was never tied to our team… So, I created a team drive. It wasn’t the most complex task, but having that idea and that different way of thinking… as an apprentice and implementing that change into the company, it’s where I’ve found my value.’

Changing culture, changing lives

Lori French: ‘Apprentices can add value they can be Innovative, they can bring a different perspective. It encourages a new culture to bring more people into that space to open up more opportunities. So, I think that's amazing.’