Twice in the space of two days our apprentices and apprentice programmes hit the national media. First, James Gee was the focus of a Daily Mirror article detailing his experience since joining Capgemini 18 months ago. Then on Friday, amid the morning rush, Amy Grange appeared on Sky News, leading presenter Stephen Dixon to conclude that the situation was ‘win win’ for companies and young people.
It got me thinking about how the recent media spotlight on apprenticeships, will in fact become the everyday focus of companies across the UK over the coming years.
Brought about by a feverish desire for employers to gain traction in a stagnant economy and a sharp rise in university tuition fees, the number of apprenticeships in the UK is rising annually. According to the Centre for Economics and Business Research, the number of apprentices will rise from today’s levels of 260,000 to 480,000 by 2022. Cynics may argue that it is merely a drive for cheaper labour, and a way to boost margins. Although this may be a factor, it is certainly not the driver. Successful apprentice schemes are a vision for a younger workforce, one untainted with history. With guidance from experienced professionals, they are a vision for a workforce that thinks and applies itself differently.
We are fortunate that we work in an organisation that is beginning to live this vision. From an intake of 172 last year, the number of apprentices due to start with Capgemini in 2013 is over 200. 41 have already begun. Traditionally the vast majority of apprentices have been recruited by Aspire, but this is diversifying. The recruits of 2013 are heading to BIM, CSD, Digital and even Financial Services. All because of the evidential success of the apprentice programme in improving the delivery of Application Services in the UK. When I asked Head of Talent and Recruitment of Apps UK, Anouska Ramsay about this success she said, ‘‘it has accelerated our ability to bring new talent in to the organisation and with this comes fresh thinking, innovation and drive for success.’’
It is not only their fresh thinking that is landing applicants a chance to shine on an apprentice scheme, but what is being referred to as their ‘fresh skills’. These are technical skills that apprentices have been fine tuning in their spare time, that match the growing trends of the market such as mobile applications and gamification. In one telephone interview I conducted some months back, an applicant had just sold his first mobile app for £10,000. When I gently enquired as to why he would want to do a year’s work for only £6,000 more than he made in his spare time sat in his underwear, his answer was simple; ‘‘Because I want to learn’’. The exciting thing for Capgemini, and indeed the UK, is that these talented young people still want to join organisations that can foster and develop their fresh thinking, raw ability and drive for success. The challenge for companies like ours is to think innovatively and boldly enough to retain them.