Apprenticeships vs graduates - the argument for nurturing talent in-house

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Employers invest at least £82 million on graduate recruitment each year, but are they really getting the most value for money? Sometimes it's better to nurture talent in-house - and the Apprenticeship Levy enables employers to do it very cost effectively.

Here’s why employers should reconsider the typical graduate milkround and look to management apprenticeships to deliver the vital soft skills to propel their organisation.

Does each graduate have what it takes for the real world?

Education and work experience can only tell you so much. Sometimes a stellar academic career can blind would-be employers to the suitability of prospective hires during the interview processes.

While everyone deserves a chance to prove their value and adaptability on the first rung of the ladder, graduates for the most part remain untested. And the cost of hiring the wrong person can leave a bad taste in the mouth of employers.

Can you hold onto the good ones?

Graduates are ambitious, but they’re frequently fickle. It can cost thousands to attract the right talent to your organisation, but graduates are notoriously difficult to retain, often using their first role as a springboard to another business.

After all that marketing, the interviews, and of course recruitment fees, there’s nothing to stop fresh graduate employees abandoning ship at the next opportunity. The process becomes even more expensive when you factor in additional training to get them up to speed.

Apprentices tend to be more loyal. Because they learn while they're employed, apprentices tend to become more integrated and indebted to their employers for offering them professional development opportunities (and paying their wages).

Are degrees really the only measure of higher learning?

Level six apprenticeships are legally equivalent to degrees, but the issue here is really a broader one of perception.

Apprenticeships are designed by employers and could be argued to offer more relevant experience and qualifications than full time education routes. Ultimately, the adaptability and capability of the new breed of apprentices will overturn outmoded attitudes.

Organisations have the opportunity to be at the forefront of this change, helping future employees to realise that university is not the only pathway to higher learning.

In the meantime, there's an opportunity to rebrand apprenticeships to avoid the historic connotations. Many organisations are calling apprentices ‘participants’ and rebranding their training into a ‘leadership programme’ or similar.

Is it time to switch to management apprenticeships?

If you’re already spending a considerable amount on management training for each graduate, it makes sense to switch to apprenticeships and use the Levy to pay for them instead.

Alternatively, rather than pay a premium for graduates - and then more on training them - you can train up new, or existing, employees on apprenticeships straight away.

Remember not all new talent has to be fresh faced and inexperienced. The old notion of apprenticeships being for ‘younger people’ people is changing. Apprenticeships offer opportunities throughout careers, from providing the first step up to management, to enabling employees to retrain and keep pace with the changing workplace.

Can upskilling your existing staff give your organisation access to some of the skills you'd normally seek in graduates?

Management Apprenticeships - summary of key benefits

Management Apprenticeships, funded by the Apprenticeship Levy, enable employers to:

  • save money on the graduate milkround
  • upskill existing staff without taking the gamble on unproven graduates
  • create more loyal employees
  • deliver important soft skills designed by employers, for employers