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    Degree apprenticeships; an employers' perspective. 20% off the job training is an opportunity not a barrier

    3 June 2021

    Over the past few weeks, Carol Rogers, Apprenticeships Manager at the university has been talking to employers and apprentices to find out about their degree apprenticeship experience. Avara Foods work with Harper Adams University to deliver 5-year degree apprenticeships for food engineering and food science roles. The company currently have 14 apprentices at the university completing the Food and Drink Advanced Engineer or Food Industry Technical Professional degree apprenticeships and are looking to recruit more engineers this year.

    I spoke to Anisah Lokat, Early Careers Manager at Avara to learn how the degree apprenticeship has worked for the company. She said “the apprenticeship programme has meant that there is a more diverse workforce; apprentices may not have considered completing a degree through the traditional route of full-time university and find the blend of academic study and real work experience suits them”. Avara aims to have high performing teams and capable leaders, and an apprenticeship programme is one way to ensure skills are fit for future business needs. Apprentices within the business are either new entrants to the company, or existing colleagues that wish to develop and the programme is regarded as a way for developing and enhancing colleagues’ skill sets through a nationally recognised qualification. Apprentices gain practical, hands-on skills while studying and are able to put theory into practice. Apprentices have a clear development  plan in place, which allows the company to structure activities around the modules taught at university. Degree apprenticeships are a large investment for a company, however Anisah feels you get something back from apprentices; work-based projects are part of the degree apprenticeship and these allow apprentices to take ownership of an aspect of their work and help the business find solutions or better ways of working.

    The 20% off the job training element of the apprenticeship can be sometimes viewed as a barrier; Anisah disagrees! You can structure the off the job element in a way that fits the business; the apprentice could deliver a meeting they wouldn’t normally run; the preparation and then reflection after the event can provide opportunities for learning, if they are meeting with a supplier, the preparation for the meeting and then the reflection of what they have learnt can contribute to the off the job training hours. The apprentice can work on specific projects, deliver training to new recruits, mentor another apprentice; these all provide learning opportunities and provided they meet the apprenticeship standards, can be claimed as off the job training. It does not need to be a structured 1 day per week and to really make it work, you need to understand what is the requirement and how it can contribute to the business. The key for making the apprenticeship work and in particular the 20% off the job training element is to make sure that line managers are on board and aware of the benefits apprentices can bring. Anisah said that having an apprentice on the team can mean it allows others to develop their own skills by mentoring, or allocating work to the apprentice that frees somebody else up to develop their own skills.

    Anisah can see a real benefit to apprentices’ personal development and she watches their professionalism develop throughout the programme. They are building higher level skills, in particular with becoming more accountable and having a purpose and drive to achieve goals. The apprentices have to take ownership of their learning and so time management skills have improved and they have developed a passion for the business and have ambitions to progress.

    I asked Anisah to give some advice to employers thinking about the apprenticeship programme; these were her tips:

    • Don’t be put off by 20% off the job training; use it as an opportunity to develop your whole teams’ knowledge, skills and behaviours.
    • Apprenticeships are a good opportunity to recruit and attract a diverse workforce and bring a diversity of thinking; it may mean a change of approach and be a culture change but consider the benefits
    • You are investing in the apprenticeship programme but they will give you a return on investment; think about what you want for your business and how the apprenticeship fits with your business model and succession plan.
    • Engage with line managers and other stakeholders; if they understand and embrace the apprenticeship programme, it will work for the business.
    • Map work activities around the apprenticeship learning and modules; this means you can give apprentices real work experience, providing them with an opportunity to learn and deepen their knowledge of the business.

    To find out more about how degree apprenticeships can work for your business in the following areas, get in touch with the apprenticeships team at Harper Adams University:

    Food Industry Technical Professional

    Food and Drink Advanced Engineer

    Senior Leader (tailored to the food industry)

    Chartered Surveyor level 6 and 7

    Degree apprenticeships; an employers' perspective. 20% off the job training is an opportunity not a barrier



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