Alison Fisher's blog

Blazing a trail – Why we need to change the way we see apprenticeships

Hello, and welcome to my first blog – a new series in which I’ll aim to share my thoughts on topics that relate to people within the automotive industry.

What better time to start than National Apprenticeship Week which celebrates the impact of apprenticeships on individuals, employers and the economy.

Alison Fisher presents during National Apprenticeship Week

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of attending an event that brought many of our apprentices together, giving them the chance to meet one another, plus pick up handy tips from leaders within our business. It was a great event, and the perfect way to celebrate the week.

One thing that really struck me was that people still have the wrong opinion when it comes to apprenticeships. If you asked most people to describe a typical apprentice, it’s likely that they’d talk about a school leaver in their first job. However, that’s not the reality any more – apprenticeships have developed into a very positive tool for life-long learning.

Of course, they’re still a great way for young people to learn on the job, but in the 2017/2018 academic year, Government stats show that 41% of new apprentices had been with their employer for more than 12 months. And since September 2018, just under half of the recorded apprenticeships have been for learners aged 25 and over.

For someone that’s passionate about helping team members grow and develop their careers, that creates an exciting opportunity.

Changing the apprentice stereotype

At Cox Automotive UK, almost 90% of our current apprentices are existing employees that have taken the opportunity to learn new skills and gain a qualification.

They’re taking advantage of apprenticeships in everything from software development to health, safety and environment – the range of courses available is fantastic and continues to grow.

At first, we encountered some uncertainty about starting an apprenticeship several years into a career, with questions like “won’t an apprenticeship be a bit basic for me?” or “I think I’m too old to start something like that.”

We’ve boosted engagement by promoting the programme as part of one to ones with managers, and sharing success stories. People who were initially unsure are now some of the best advocates and ambassadors for apprenticeships in our business.

You get more of what you measure

So, what effect has the Apprenticeship Levy had?

The automotive industry has been a strong supporter of traditional apprenticeships, but the Government Levy introduced in 2017 has made many businesses ‘up’ their game.

The business benefits around improved customer service, retention, succession plans, and generating fresh ideas have always been clear.

What the Levy has really done is given businesses a measure to aim for and, at Cox Automotive, it’s inspired us to widen the scope of our existing programme. We’re now offering qualifications across more subjects, and more levels.

In 2019, we’ll take this one step further by launching the Cox Automotive Academy, bringing together the available learning opportunities, and helping even more people access opportunities to fulfil their potential and develop the career they want in our business.

The future’s bright

Apprenticeships might be just one way for people to develop, but if businesses build their programmes, I believe it could generate real benefits in terms of productivity.

We also need to think about how new roles, changing attitudes, and a growing reliance on technology affect the way we work. In my next blog, I’ll be talking about what the ‘Future World of Work’ could look like, and the steps we’re taking to introduce greater levels of flexibility across Cox Automotive.

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