YOUNG and not-so-young people have been urged to consider the value of doing an apprenticeship.

The 13th National Apprenticeship Week, which ends on Sunday, has been seeking to celebrate diversity in apprenticeships.

The number of people doing apprenticeships rose last year but is still lower than before the government introduced an apprenticeship levy in 2017.

Since then, the levy has required organisations with a wage bill of £3million or more to pay 0.5 per cent of that figure into a fund which can be drawn on to support apprenticeships.

But Ali Franklin, business development manager for the Hampshire-based training charity PETA Ltd, said some companies were not using their levy but seeing it as a “tax bill”.

Earlier this week, maritime minister Nusrat Ghani met apprentices at ABP in Southampton.

She said: “Encouraging more people to join the maritime sector through apprenticeships is a priority for government. It‘s great that ABP is making such progress in supporting new talent and growing the maritime workforce.”

The number of apprentices in the maritime sector rose 20 per cent year-on-year to more than 70 in 2019, while the number of female apprentices among them rose from 11 per cent to 16 per cent.

Abbie Jones, apprentice engineer at the Port of Southampton, said: “My experience of working for ABP has been fantastic. I get to work on a wide range of equipment every day from cranes and air bridges to pump stations, which is what makes my job so interesting.

“I also value the fact that I get plenty of opportunities to further my education. For example, I am currently completing the engineering HNC. The greatest thing about working here are the people – everybody is so friendly and helpful which is what makes working for ABP so enjoyable.”

Solent Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) is in its sixth year of employing apprentices in business administration and is this year also employing a level four apprentice marketing executive.

Nicola Twiddy, office manager and PA at Solent LEP, who works with the trainees said: “Having an apprenticeship scheme at the Solent LEP has been a great support to the whole team and all of the apprentices who have been with us over the years have given a fresh perspective on how we do things and have positively increased the whole team’s capacity.”

Sophie Taylor, 23, from Fareham, is the LEP’s first apprentice in its marketing team and starts a two year apprenticeship this month. Sophie joined the LEP from Hampshire Chamber of Commerce.

“I much prefer the process of working and studying at the same time as it means anything I learn through my apprenticeship modules, I am able to put into practice straight away in a real life environment. Everyone is so encouraging here and really want you to do well. I love that I feel I’m contributing to the work the LEP does for the region’s economy,” she said.

“I think apprenticeships still have some stigma attached to them and at school we simply weren’t given enough information about the paths we could take. Apprenticeships weren’t really on the agenda except for more practical courses like hairdressing. I didn’t want to choose a university path and an apprenticeship is by far the best thing I’ve done. I’m set up for life and am excited to have the opportunity to upskill even further, but in my chosen field of marketing.”

Georgina Carr spent a term at Cardiff Metropolitan University but the events management course she was studying was not what she expected. She became an apprentice in business administration at law firm Paris Smith in Southampton.

“The apprenticeship at Paris Smith is pretty much hands-on. It was what the events management course should have been,” she said.

She had mainly been aware of apprentices as an avenue for hair and beauty or childcare training, she said. “I didn’t really think of getting a job in an office,” she added.

Now 21, she has been taken on in a permanent role as marketing assistant. “I would have been at university for three years and then would have come into this job at a lower level,” she said.

Ali Franklin of Peta Ltd said: “We experience so many positive outcomes for apprentices, whether they are just commencing their learning journey or are well established in business and seeking to build on existing skills. Our management apprenticeship programmes achieve 80 per cent distinction outcomes. That demonstrates apprentices seizing the opportunity to learn.

“I can see the dilemma for business, balancing productivity, resource constraints alongside allowing time to be invested in learning, although the longer term benefits can be truly powerful, not only in motivating staff, but in retaining talent and building skills for tomorrow. Encouraging young people to look seriously at apprenticeships as an alternative to college or university is critical as they make further education choices. Academic study is not for all and apprenticeships mean individuals are still in education.”

Fareham College hosted a levy transfer dinner, to exchange knowledge about how levy-paying employers can share their annual levy fund with other employers.

The dinner played host to over 40 local employers and staff including Aeropark LTD, Blanchard Wells, GE Aviation, Hampshire County Council, Knights Brown, South Western Railway and Skanska and was held in Fareham College’s restaurant, Avenue 141

Andrew Kaye, principal and chief executive at Fareham College said: “Apprenticeships are highly relevant to the courses delivered by Fareham College. Our recently completed Civil Engineering Training Centre alone aims to deliver more than 1,600 groundwork and civil engineering apprenticeships over the next five years.”

Sarah Martyn, group people director for the car dealership group Hendy, said: “The aim of our apprentice programme is to build skills and capability for the future across key technical disciplines, such as our vehicle technicians.

“We also now support apprentices to develop careers in our group functions including marketing based in Dorset and purchasing based in Hampshire.”

Karen Clarkson, marketing manager with Southampton law firm Warner Goodman, said:

"We have had some wonderful experiences with apprentices. We currently have 10 across our firm ranging from the legal teams to accounts and other support teams, and my first marketing assistant here was an apprentice.

"Several of our apprentices were employees before starting their apprenticeship and I can't imagine our teams without them now; they have brought real enthusiasm, change and new ideas to the teams.

"From our conversations, there are a lot of myths out there around hiring apprentices and unfortunately the negative stories tend to get more traction than the positive ones."