Legislate had the privilege of meeting Katie Fiddaman, a Chartered Manager working as a Digital Content Producer at Virgin Red. Following her A-Levels, Katie undertook a Chartered Management Degree Apprenticeship at Pearson and studied one day per week to achieve her first class degree in Business Management. Katie was then prompted to a Content Marketing Executive role for the second half of her apprenticeship, where she continued her Friday training whilst developing workplace skills. In this article, Katie explains to us what is means to be an apprentice, what kinds of apprentices exist and gives employers and prospective apprentices some top tips on how to best make use of apprenticeships.
What are apprenticeships?
Katie explains how apprenticeships provide alternative routes to higher education rather than, for example, attending University. Apprenticeships range from what is called ‘Level 2’ to ‘Level 7’ with the former qualification being equivalent to a GCSE qualification and the latter being equivalent to a Master’s qualification (see image below).
Apprentices can range in length based on what ‘standard’ a person elects. A ‘standard’, Katie explains, is essentially a subject and that standards now exist in pretty much everything you can think of with medicine being the only exception.
Apprenticeships provide individuals with another way of learning that is more hands-on than other methods. Alongside working, apprentices must dedicate 20% of their time to recorded learning with a training provider and some form of assessment will be completed at the end to prove that the apprentice has passed. For example, in Katie’s case, she worked as a Communications, PR and Content Coordinator four days a week and attended a full-day of University each Friday.
What are the benefits of apprenticeships for both apprentice and employer?
For the apprentice, Katie highlighted five unique benefits of the apprenticeship route. Firstly, when you undertake an apprenticeship you will be employed by the organisation and get a job. As a result of this, you will also get paid a salary for your contributions which will vary based on age, apprentice level and the level of the job that you are completing. Thirdly, Katie explained how an apprentice will finish their apprenticeship with no debts- their qualifications are paid for. In Katie’s case, her company paid for her undergraduate degree. Fourthly, Katie highlighted the experience an apprentice gets on one of these schemes and explains how this differs from University study. In an apprenticeship, an individual gets to apply the theory that they have learned in the workplace as they learn it and, working alongside their qualifications, they manage to build a professional profile of experience. Finally, Katie spoke about how apprentices often come in at an early stage, if not the beginning, of their career.
For employers, Katie explained how hiring apprentices gives employers the unique opportunity to mould people in their business as they grow and develop, meaning these hires can grow into the perfect fit for the business. Katie also explained how the Apprenticeship Levy worked and why this is a pull for some employers. The Apprenticeship Levy, Katie explained, is almost like a ‘tax’ that employers with an annual pay bill of more than £3 million, must pay. Relevant employers must pay 0.5% of their annual pay bill into the levy. If employers take on apprentices, however, they receive levy funding from the government and therefore make use of the levy they would otherwise miss out on. Katie mentioned that there were also funding options available for smaller employers who don't pay the levy, making apprenticeships an appealing option for these companies too. Finally, Katie spoke about how apprentices are important vehicles for enabling diversity in the workplace. Let alone providing alternative opportunities for people who learn in different ways, apprenticeship schemes also give those who are perhaps from more disadvantaged backgrounds, or who have commitments that require them to be earning, greater opportunities to fulfil their potential.
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The future of apprenticeships: where do you see apprenticeships going?
In response to this question, Katie recalled how apprenticeships, particularly degree apprenticeships, were not really discussed as alternative options when in school. Katie thinks this is changing and has contributed to this change through co-founding ‘Apprenticeships Talks’ that gives advice to listeners. Katie also mentioned how the degree apprenticeship in particular is becoming increasingly popular, stating how the mindset and opinions on them is evolving in the positive direction.
Where do you look for apprenticeships?
Having taken a year out to apply for and find the apprenticeship that worked for her, Katie has surveyed the apprenticeship market and where to find them. For people interested in a particular company, Katie said that it is important to make use of their websites where they will publish applications to their schemes. Unlike things like UCAS, apprenticeships come and go at any time, meaning that apprenticeship seekers need to be vigilant. For a more general display of opportunities, Katie suggested that LinkedIn and jobsites such as Reed and Indeed were useful for finding apprenticeships and that the Government website should, although it doesn’t, have all listed apprenticeships. Websites such as Not Going to Uni were also useful in showing the types of opportunities one could get through apprenticeships.
For employers, Katie suggested advertising on the websites and platforms above and suggested that it was important that employers allowed people to search by apprenticeship type. For example, rather than putting an advert position for ‘Business Apprenticeship’, employers should put in ‘L2 Business Administration Apprenticeship’ so that people can find roles that suit them.
What agreements did you sign for your apprenticeship?
Katie signed two agreements for her apprenticeship. The first was an ‘Apprenticeship Agreement’ and the second was a more traditional ‘Employment Agreement’. The first agreement contained special clauses about what would happen in certain situations. For example, what would happen if the apprentice failed a year of study. The second, was a standard employment contract that set out Katie’s duties and responsibilities.
What top tips would you give an employer hiring apprentices?
Katie felt that employers should give apprentices the opportunity to progress into other roles and positions after the apprenticeship and that their contract should not restrict them to a specific role or position. It should not be compulsory for the apprentice to fulfil a particular position post-apprenticeship and there needs to be progression opportunities and roles for apprentices to grow into as they grow and develop. Katie suggested that it is crucial for employers to have a process and a pipeline of the apprentice’s journey through their business. Stages and checkpoints for the employer and apprentice, will ensure that the apprentice is getting the most out of their experience and ultimately therefore that the company is making the greatest gain.
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