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Focus on Skills: Why apprenticeships are the future for business

The need for specific employable skills in the workplace is essential. Attracting and acquiring new talent to all industries is a competitive field, with more students leaving school and attending university than ever before.

However, for growing businesses, the benefits of apprentices are becoming apparent. The ability to train your staff and integrate them into a working culture has its obvious advantages. But the reasons for creating on-the-job training courses for new talent are increasing every day. Here we look at how businesses are benefiting from apprentices, and how they can grow in the future.

Growing skills and businesses

Apprenticeships are one of the best opportunities for young people to learn valuable workplace-related skills. Where once the idea of apprenticeships was saturated by jobs in sectors such as engineering, construction, and care, a growing number of courses now compete with higher-level education and degree level careers.

The Government introduced an apprenticeships levy in 2017, forcing businesses with payrolls of over £3 million to reserve five per cent of wage costs for training in the workplace. The levy was expected to create 3 million more apprenticeships in the UK by 2020. It is essential for large businesses to generate high skilled employees from apprenticeships.

This is demonstrated by the growth of high-level apprenticeships over the past five years. A level seven apprenticeship is considered equivalent to a post-graduate course. A 2019 report found that only 30 people enrolled at this level in 2015, compared to 4,500 people in 2017 when the levy was introduced.

The growing number of high-level apprenticeships is reflected in the variety of roles available to those who want to learn in a workplace. Some examples include apprenticeships in aerospace engineering with the MOD, digital marketing, and as a police constable. UCAS advertises apprenticeships that pay £30,000 a year, over 25 per cent more than the average graduate salary in the UK.

A day in the life

Apprenticeships are not just an alternative to further or even higher education. Courses often contain useful skills that act as introductory workshop into specific sectors.

Grace started an apprenticeship in digital marketing in July 2019 with Mobile Mini, a storage container provider and rental service. She explains why an apprenticeship course appealed to her: “I chose to do this rather than going to university because I wanted to continue in education at the same time as learning on the job.”

For Grace, being able to work while earning had obvious advantages. But most importantly, she believes that it will benefit her career in the long run. She continued: “An apprenticeship really prepares you for the world of work, as you are not only continuing education, you are also gaining so much valuable experience of a real workplace.”

This reflects the growing need for sector-specific skills over generalised, particularly in digital and high skilled roles. For businesses, the prospect of moulding the ideal worker through work and education creates the perfect employee, ingrained within the culture of the company.

Beyond 2020

While apprenticeships are becoming increasingly prevalent in workplaces, the future will depend on them. The World Economic Forum noted that changing technology and business practices will mean that up to 42 per cent of skill requirements will change by 2022. Consequently, reskilling is becoming not only necessary but difficult to do on a large scale as well.

The turnover of essential skills means that they can only be learnt in the workplace, and often, if practical skills are taught in higher education, there is an expectation that they will be redundant by the time a student enters the workplace.

Only through apprenticeships can a business move with the era of accelerated and digital innovation. With young people engrained in a culture of digitisation, they will adapt to changing scenarios and technology. Businesses will compete for talent from a pool of young apprentices. As the number of apprentices increases, opportunities must adapt to meet the needs of an intelligent workforce, where education occurs throughout their working lives.

As apprenticeships become more common and attractive for both students and businesses, are we likely to see a shift in post-school education? With the cost of university becoming an unattractive prospect for young people, will apprenticeship schemes become the best way to prepare people for a working future? Only time will tell, but he benefits are evident.

5 Minutes With… Sophie Sibley, Environment and Energy Data Analyst, SPIE UK

In the latest instalment of our FM industry interview series, we sat down with Sophie Sibley, Environment and Energy Data Analyst at SPIE UK to talk about how the industry can encourage more women to move into STEM-based careers as International Women’s Day (March 8th) approaches…

Tell us about your current role.

Environment and Energy Data Analyst. I help advise businesses on how they need to adapt to adhere to new environmental and energy regulations. By monitoring clientsenergy use and assessing their buildings, I can advise them on how to reduce their energy consumption, specifically when assisting them with the completion of their ESOS reports.

How can we encourage more women into STEM careers?

Accessibility is a huge problem. We need to make it as easy as possible for women to follow a STEM career path and promote the opportunities available to women at a young age. Although engineering is known for being maledominated, an effort should be made to integrate women amongst the male cohort. This helps to stop issues that may arise due to segregation while enabling different ideas to be shared.

What’s your advice to those looking into following a career in engineering?

I suggest joining a professional body and attending relevant events. Not only does this give you the opportunity to learn from others but helps you to start having conversations with the right people in the industry who might end up being a mentor further down the line.  

With the percentage of women in the industry dropping off over time, how can the sector retain more females

Female networks, such as SPIEs SoSPIE Ladies network has inspired me to remain in engineering as you can seek council from others in a similar situation to yourself.  

From mailroom to boardroom – The opportunities presented by a career in FM

The UK chapter of the International Facility Management Association (IFMA) has published a global outlook report featuring interviews with FM leaders to explore the trends, opportunities and challenges faced by FMs.

The report takes in expert views from 12 FM professionals in the UK, US, Russia, Poland, Sweden, Italy, Portugal, Bulgaria, Nigeria, South Africa and Australia.

A key question was: “If you had to sell FM as a career choice, what would be your sales pitch?”

Martin Pickard, president of the IFMA UK chapter: “A career in facility management is one of the most diverse and interesting pathways you can follow. If you are people focused, a great problem solver, a terrific communicator and excited by the opportunities brought by change then you’re halfway there in an international profession that can take you from the mailroom to the boardroom.”

Zack Farrar, CFM, Jacobs, Milwaukee, U.S.: “I love not having to do the same thing every day. FM roles are so diverse and give the opportunity to learn and do more and more, as you move through the roles, locations and organisations. At the end of the day I’m a project manager with many hats and a lot of knowledge on a lot of things. It’s a fantastic way to become a well-rounded professional and make a good living.”

Andrew Mason, owner, Workplacefundi, South Africa: “As a young FM, new to the industry, you can expect to lead a small team of cleaners, security guards and receptionists in the facility that you look after. To do this, you will need leadership skills, so I would sell facility management as one of the quickest routes for our youngest talent to get onto the leadership ladder.”

Helena Ohlsson Skjeld, director of services, Scania Region, Sweden: “If you work in FM, you can make a difference in almost every industry. You can make better buildings, smarter infrastructure, reduce negative impact on our planet, create safer and healthier environments, improve workforce happiness and productivity, and even save lives.”

Adejumoke Akure, partner, Estatelinks Ltd, Nigeria: “FM makes innovation and creativity possible. FM creates a rich well of empowerment that is clearly relevant in nation building both of physical infrastructure and economics. It’s a great tool for international trade and wider influence.”

Luis GameiroJLL regional facilities managerPortugal: “It’s a job only for the brave and most daring ones.”

Stephen Ballesty, FRICS, FAIQS, CFM, IFMA Fellow, director, In-Touch Advisory, Sydney, Australia: “FM is the foremost contributor to a more productive, sustainable and liveable built environment, leaving only one question: ‘What role will you play?”

You can download the paper here: www.ifmauk.org/downloads