Adult apprenticeships: A new beginning

Changing career as an adult can be a daunting prospect. It could mean starting again at the bottom of the ladder, on entry level wages or working alongside much younger colleagues. In fact without proper help and guidance, beginning again in a new career or reskilling as an adult is something many people don’t contemplate. But there is a solution that more and more people are turning to; adult apprenticeships.

Adult apprenticeships can be a great way of retraining, enabling you to work and be paid while gaining your qualifications. There’s no age limit, and the over 25’s make up nearly 50% of all apprenticeships in England.

Adults in England can do any level of apprenticeship ranging from the ‘traditional’ apprenticeships in construction and plumbing through to digital, management, space engineer or even nurse, police or social worker. They range from Level 2 (GCSE equivalent) to Level 6 (Degree Apprenticeship) and even Level 7 (postgraduate). An apprenticeship on average lasts between one to four years, depending on the level. 

Adult apprenticeships are one of the many options out there now for those who need to retrain or change careers. Apprenticeships are growing in popularity because you can learn and earn on the job. They are especially popular amongst employers as they enable them to recruit a wider pool of diverse people from a wider range of backgrounds, with different skill sets and approaches to the world. 

What is an apprenticeship?

Apprenticeships combine practical training in a job with study. Apprentices spend approximately 80% of their time on their day-to-day role and 20% completing their qualification. It develops employees’ professional knowledge and skills whilst they’re working in an organisation, enhancing performance and expertise. 

How are apprenticeships funded?

Employers recruit the apprentice as a key member of their staff. Employers are responsible for paying their apprentices’ salaries but training costs are paid for via the employer through the Apprenticeship Levy. The Levy requires organisations with a wage bill of more than £3m to pay 0.5% of that to support apprenticeships. However, any size employer can access funding for an apprentice, whether they pay the Levy or not. 

A recent report commissioned by The Open University and The 5% Club (an employer group committed to having a minimum 5% of the workforce learning and earning) found that nearly three quarters (70%) of employers held the belief that apprenticeships and work-based learning would be vital to their organisations’ recovery from Covid disruption, compared to just half (50%) of business who were asked in August 2020.

The report found that the number of organisations planning to increase their apprenticeship intake over the next twelve months has seen an 11% increase, with nearly three quarters (72%) now planning on hiring more apprentices over the next year, up from under two thirds (61%) polled last summer. With these figures being reflected in the view of both SMEs and large businesses.

In essence, employers are increasingly seeing the benefits of apprenticeships and this can only grow as we move into the new post-Covid world.

Across the country we can see the transformational impact of apprenticeships – to the employer, to the individual and the economy. The Open University, as the largest degree apprenticeship provider in England, is seeing the incredible impact of apprenticeships on a daily basis. 

Take for example, Fiaz. Fiaz was a manager in a bar and he wanted a change in his career. He applied to be a Police Constable Degree Apprentice at North Yorkshire Police, as he wanted to make a positive contribution to his local community. He’s now retraining in a completely new sector, is learning and earning and will gain a degree with invaluable experience in the police force. 

I’ve also met the inspiring Anthony. Anthony worked as a healthcare assistant in the NHS and his colleagues noticed his potential and encouraged him to apply for the Registered Nurse Degree Apprenticeship. He’s now on his way to becoming a qualified nurse, with the costs of his degree covered by his employer via the Apprenticeship Levy. Anthony has a family so is able to fit his study and apprenticeship around his commitments. 

OU apprenticeships are ideal for older learners because many have caring or parental responsibilities. This makes apprenticeships an attractive option because it’s not possible for many to give up work or relocate and do a traditional degree at a brick university. 

The OU’s apprenticeships help address skills gaps in key areas, including digital, management, leadership, social work, policing and healthcare. Our teaching model is a blended one, with world-renowned online teaching combined with specialist face to face tutor support. 

For more information visit Open University. 

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