What's the point of National Apprenticeship Week? #NAW2018

National Apprenticeship Week promises to be a busy few days.

All around the country, businesses will be opening doors, visiting schools and colleges, offering CV workshops, careers talks, promotional competitions and apprentice-led presentations to bang the drum about the value of professional training.

Last year, existing apprentices organised live online school assemblies which reached 10,000 young people. This year social media channels are already  buzzing with updates from employers and training providers.

Even universities are getting in on the act – Exeter is busy planning events to mark the week.

But the week is as much about raising the profile of apprenticeship with employers themselves as it is with the students. “Getting an apprenticeship in some industry sectors is actually very competitive,” says Jayne Worthington, director of education and skills at Manchester based The Growth Company, which will be busy at more than 30 events during the week, from careers fairs to parents’ evenings to mock interviews. “If the opportunities aren’t there, young people will revert to looking at traditional educational pathways.”

The week brings a nationwide push to promote and celebrate apprenticeships – and some of the best ways to capture the attention of young people – and their parents – are to talk money.

“During talks, we help you calculate your monthly wage on an £18,000 starting salary, and show what you can do with it,” says Crescens George, chief operating officer at Hampshire’s Be Wiser Insurance which provides apprenticeships for the insurance and finance sector. “We’ll show what you can save, how much you can spend, when you could afford a new iPad and even what rent you could pay your mum and dad.”

Young people and their parents also perk up at financial prospects in the longer term, says Mr George. “We paint a picture of what you might be earning in your mid 20s. That’s when they really get engaged.” Part of the battle, he says, is winning over parents through targeted presentations – meeting face to face can be powerful.

Both training providers and employers recognise that myths around apprenticeships linger on – that they only cover manual trades or are a choice for non academic students for instance. Parents don’t always understand that their child will stay in education with an apprenticeship. “The real value is getting in front of them, especially the many parents who are convinced about university as the best route,” says Mr George.

But some apprenticeships are on a par with academic routes, says Graham Hasting-Evans, managing director at national educational awarding organisation NOCN, which celebrates the week at its centres from Cornwall to the north east and sponsors the Annual Apprenticeship Conference this March in Birmingham. “Young people could make the most of the week by asking questions, having a go and just working out what they might want to do. This is a great opportunity to find out stuff such as what does a lab technician do all day, or how do I become a marketing assistant in publishing, can I join the secret service, or what does a steel fixer make?” You could even ring the company directly, he says to ask how you apply. “But do your research first.”

With prizes for apprentices of the year, many training providers see the week as a chance to celebrate achievements of existing trainees. “The more we can say this is a cool option, the better,” says Simon Bozzoli, chief executive of London based training provider LDN Group, which delivers business and technical apprenticeships, mostly at advanced and higher level. “Many schools and parents don’t really understand how apprentices work and what employers are looking for. There are currently huge barriers to preparing people to be successful apprentices.”

Apprentices training with LDN Group will work within digital businesses such as peer lending platform Funding Circle, mobile bank Starling Bank and telecoms business euNetworks. “We’re all about enhancing digital skills,” he says.

But reforms to careers advice mean students should receive more information in 2018, since the government is obliging schools to open up their doors to allow training providers to talk directly to pupils about their apprenticeship and technical options at post 14, 16 and 18 years.

“During National Apprenticeship Week, we run a very large recruitment day, and bring in employers to help people understand what support there is for apprentices,” says Matt Butcher, who’s responsible for matching apprentices with employers at Bournemouth & Poole College in Dorset. The timing of the week is critical, he says. “We have so many big employers who recruit in September. March is the perfect time to think about it – leave it too late and it’s Easter and GCSEs, or A levels.” He adds. “Your CV needs to be ready so you can register on the government’s Find An Apprenticeship service. Try and get along to any local events, and once the week is over, get your application in straight away.”