Seven building blocks: apprenticeship programmes  

Seven building blocks: apprenticeship programmes  

Oliver Sidwell, co-founder and director at RMP Enterprise, considers the importance of apprenticeship schemes

What do apprentices really think of their apprenticeship programmes? What do they think makes a successful, quality apprenticeship? Until now, nobody had an answer to these questions.

However, by analysing 15,000 apprentice reviews recorded on our school leaver website, we now know that the number of UK apprentices viewing their apprenticeships as a genuine career path has increased by almost 70% over five years.

In the accounting and finance sector specifically, apprentices are benefiting from HR and management support during their apprenticeship programmes. Based on an index where 100 represents the highest proportion of people in any of the research findings, apprentices rate the sector at 76 points for HR support – above the 74-point average across nine industry sectors – and 78 for management support (which matches the all-sector average). The latter, according to research, is the most important factor in making apprentices feel valued in the workplace.

The amount of admin tasks undertaken by apprentices in the sector indexes at 35 points, just one point above the all-sector average, but seven index points fewer than banking, and 10 points fewer than law (i.e. banking and law apprentices do comparatively more administrative work). Opportunities for learning identified by apprentices’ index at 45 points. This is greater than banking (27) and business apprenticeships (41)—but similar to law (47), and IT & telecoms (48).

On average across all sectors, 98% of apprentices are willing to recommend their apprenticeship employer to a friend. Furthermore, this research has given us insight into the seven building blocks companies need for running successful apprenticeship programmes.


1. Inspiring leadership

Young people are inspired by leaders. Our research revealed that more than a third (37%) of the apprenticeship reviews in 2018 point to the benefit of management appreciation—an increase from the 30% of four years ago.

Senior managers who act as coaches can motivate and show direction to help apprentice skill development.

Companies’ senior leadership are recognising this effect, as 42% of apprentices now acknowledge them as a source of support.

2. Building skills for work and life

Apprentices said learning plays a significant part in their apprenticeship programmes (an increase of more than a quarter over five years—from 23% of apprentices to 29%).

This includes a blend of soft and technical skills: communication, confidence building, software and programming, team building, and managing projects.

3. Valuable experience versus having fun

While apprentices are enjoying certain elements of their programmes – such as being part of a workplace team – they are finding comparatively less fun in other activities—an example of this being working with customers.

To address this gap, companies need to explain the growth and development opportunities presented across all of the tasks involved day-to-day.

 4. Creating passionate people

When giving advice to others based on their apprenticeship experience, passion for their scheme was rated very highly (19%).

Through inspiring this level of passion and confidence in apprentices, companies can help an apprentice connect their everyday activities with the overall mission of the organisation. Understanding the underlying vision and values of the company will help develop that passion, leading apprentices to become ambassadors for the company.

5. Cushioning the cost

More than a third (38%) of apprentices in our research found their travel costs challenging.

To make an apprenticeship programme more viable for the apprentice and to attract the best talent, companies need to think longer term and pay their apprentices enough to minimise financial pressures, which means they will get more out of the apprentice, too.

6. Going beyond the day-to-day

GenZ apprentices see themselves as global citizens and want to make a difference to society and the world around them.

Interest in volunteering has increased by more than 80% (from 9% of apprentices in 2013), whereas sport has declined from 33% to 26% over the past five years.

It is important for companies to take note of this shift and review the initiatives in place for their apprentices.

7. Having someone by your side

Using workplace mentors to support apprentices is at its highest level in five years.

However, over the whole research period only 14% of apprentices felt the mentoring aspect of their programmes was well-managed, behind training (50%) and induction (31%).

Mentors remain an undervalued component of a successful apprenticeship; it is important for companies to allocate more of their resources to this element.


Apprentices are increasingly treating their experience as planning for the road ahead and acknowledging it as a worthwhile career choice.

The growth in this sentiment among apprentices is a strong indication to employers that apprenticeships are a valuable investment for attracting the best talent.

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