A tale of when apprenticeships go wrong and why they needn't
When apprenticeships go wrong – and why they needn’t have to
This is a tale of an apprenticeship that didn’t simply fail to live up to expectations, but one that left a young person thoroughly dispirited and disillusioned with the system.
Eddie Paul isn’t our subject’s real name (for reasons that will become clear). But then neither is it the first time “Eddie” has had to adopt a false name as part of his apprenticeship.
Leaving school after A-levels last year, Eddie didn’t really know what he wanted to do. School had been keen for him to go to university but was also supportive of alternatives and had invited guest speakers to tell the sixth form about the options.
Eddie, who’d had some work experience under his belt, felt he wanted to get to work as soon as possible and decided that uni wasn’t for him. No easy choice, as all but two of his year went off to universities, freshers’ weeks or gap years.
Faced with having to earn a living, he looked at a number of job opportunities for school leavers and was confronted by the traditional barriers to getting a foot on the employment ladder. He managed to get some work experience at two well known media companies but these were short term.
Looking at the apprenticeship route in January, Eddie saw an ad on the official government site for an apprentice marketing executive. He applied and the next thing he knew, he’d received an official-looking email asking him to enrol at a nearby college of further education (CFE).
Somehow, between Eddie, the CFE and his eventual employer, the roles of each stakeholder became confusing. Eddie ended up at his CFE enrolment day expecting to be interviewed for a marketing job, while the CFE was not overly helpful in explaining their part as training provider.
After unpicking the process (with clear guidance sadly lacking), Eddie was then scheduled for an interview by his prospective employer.
He’d set his sights on getting into marketing and both the job description and the employer’s professional-looking website seemed to tick all the boxes. So it was with some surprise that, at his interview, he learned that he’d be expected to make at least 80 telephone calls a day and that his “marketing apprenticeship” was actually about selling business meetings. He was also a little surprised to be told that he’d have to make all his calls using a false name as this was the company’s accepted practice.
After some very basic training, he was put to work on the phones. “I’ve never felt so depressed as I did in those first few days,” says Eddie. “I kept thinking, when’s the marketing apprenticeship bit going to kick in?”
This was January; yet, the CFE training provider had no contact with Eddie until mid-February. More shockingly, despite applying for what he though was a Digital Marketing apprenticeship on the government site, Eddie ended up on a Business Administration course. With this apparent lack of communication between the CFE and employer, Eddie felt confused and anxious that he wouldn’t receive the best training possible and wouldn’t end up with the qualification he wanted.
Eddie had initially been told that his coursework would be done from home and / or college on Thursdays. So he was surprised to be told by his company that he was expected to come into work on Thursdays instead.
It was when trying to sort all this out this that it became evident that the CFE and employer were not really communicating. Further, it soon became apparent that he was doing exactly the same job as other, non-apprentices for considerably less money. By this time, he was also becoming more adept on the phone and was making appointments successfully.
Eddie couldn’t see the point of continuing the apprenticeship if he was doing a qualification he didn’t want to do, while being paid less than half what his non-apprentice colleagues were.
But, when he took his concerns to his employers, they fobbed him off with a promise to review his salary in due course.
The CFE was also sympathetic – but would do nothing to address his concerns with the employer or the qualification.
Eddie was happy to work hard and continued to do so until July. But he was feeling exploited and let down – and he resigned.
Sadly, this is not untypical of the things we hear at Uni’s not for me.
And it’s a disgrace. It’s bad enough when an employer exploits young people with the promise of training, a job and completing an apprenticeship. But for a provider like Eddie’s CFE to be so feeble is a real worry. Eddie didn’t want to name either his employer or the provider – but we at Uni’s not for me know who you are!
And as for Eddie – well he’s looking at other options and with his acquired sales skills, might even help us out at Uni’s not for me for a bit.
“I’ve never felt so depressed as I did in those first few days,” says Eddie. “I kept thinking, when’s the marketing apprenticeship bit going to kick in?”
It’s not all bad news
With the Government committed to creating 3 million apprenticeships in the next few years, everyone will have to keep an eye on the quality of those apprenticeships.
Just as universities have opened the floodgates to thousands more hopefuls to the detriment of their teaching quality and graduate prospects, so apprenticeships will become devalued if the unscrupulous providers are allowed to continue.
Thank goodness, then, for organisations like WhiteHat. They do what they say which is quite simply to “make apprenticeships better.” With the apprenticeship levy about to hit, employers should be confident in their training providers and asking more of them.
WhiteHat was founded to address the lack of high-quality, career-focused apprenticeships on offer for ambitious young people and provide employers with the means to attract the best non-graduate talent.
They specifically target students with good academic grades, from a diverse range of backgrounds, and use cutting-edge technology to reach and identify hidden talent.
They help their candidates to build a three-dimensional video profile and use gamification to build a unique personality overview for every potential apprentice. Their approach is cutting-edge and brings thought-leading ideas to the forefront of the apprenticeship agenda.
UNFM and WhiteHat share a passion for giving ambitious young people the best start to their working lives. We feel very strongly that exploitative employers and lazy training providers should be named and shamed.
In fact, we share so much in common that we’re delighted to announce that we have partnered with WhiteHat in the future to ensure that we give the very best alternative options to young people who want to succeed and raise the profile of ‘good’ apprenticeships.