In Favour of Apprenticeships

We recently reviewed our vision for George T&D, using the simple technique of creating newspaper articles about our activities for the year 2025. As I considered what I’d like GTD to be known for, one thing that stood out was as a business that invested in apprentices. That resulted in the production of a front page article, for the fictitious Career News, about our 100th apprenticeship place. The newspaper article is not intended to be a plan of action of course. It is merely a way to focus our vision. Our plans will adapt and evolve in all kinds of ways over the next ten years, but the vision to invest in our employees, in such things as apprenticeships, will help us keep moving in the right direction.

Our vision for GTD has always been that we build socially beneficial actions into everything we do and, naturally, when we are looking to employ people, we want to find ways to do it that will have the greatest impact. Apprenticeships seem a great way to not just provide employment, but also to invest in young people, giving them on-the-job work experience and training.

Over the Summer, I’ve been delivering training in Agile/Scrum for a bunch of Sky apprentices, which has been good fun and also a considerable learning curve for me. The course content is designed to be for delegates who’ve never heard about Agile before, so there was no need for a great change in the delivery, but, of course, I had to remind myself that they don’t have the years of experience in software development that my usual delegates have. For example, referring to ‘lightweight’ requirements (to distinguish from more traditional detailed up-front requirements) only works if “requirements” means something to them in the first place!

However, the apprentices picked up the material quickly nonetheless, and, if anything, not having the baggage of working in traditional software development for years helped. For example, the idea of business and development people working together to build a product made perfect sense to them. In fact, it was more a case of having to convince them that there are businesses that exist that don’t encourage business and development people to work together! This seems to me one of the great benefits of employing apprentices and teaching them your good practices, before they pick up too many bad ones.

The Sky apprentices ranged from 16 to 22, with a variety of experience. They are all very bright young people, who possibly could have chosen to study for a degree, but decided instead to go the apprenticeship route. As much as I am an advocate of Higher Education, I’ve always felt that on-the-job learning is far more beneficial and it seems that, increasingly, apprenticeships are being seen as a valid route for many young people.

The benefits for the employer are also becoming more apparent, as a few stats from the National Apprenticeship Service show:

  • 88% of apprentice employers believe they lead to a more motivated and satisfied workforce, leading to greater loyalty and quality
  • 81% of apprentice employers say they make their businesses more productive
  • The average apprenticeship completer increases business productivity by £214 per week
  • 80% of employers feel that apprenticeships reduce staff turnover

Our plans for employing apprentices in GTD are still in the early stages. We’ve been experimenting with an internship, which has helped refine our thinking, and will be taking on a few traineeships in the Autumn. We may not get there (although I think it is unlikely we won’t), but, at the very least, by pursuing this path and talking about it in things like this blog, we may prompt a few others to think about taking on their own apprentices. The 2025 newspaper front page may end up having another company employing their 100th apprentice, and not ours – but that’s fine by us.