Higher Level Apprenticeships - An Employer's View

Richard Bonner of EC Harris discusses the importance of the availability of alternative entry routes into the industry. The current economic climate and the recent rise in tuition fees means that more school and college leavers will be considering alternative options to full time degree courses over the coming years. Earning a salary whilst gaining further qualifications and professional expertise is becoming an increasingly attractive prospect.

In September 2012, university tuition fees for full time degree courses increased to £6,000 - £9,000 per year. We are now finding that school leavers are increasingly considering alterative options to attending university on a full time basis. The Associate of Graduate Recruiters (AGR) predict that over the next few years, the number of recent graduates with relevant degrees in Quantity Surveying and Project Management gained on a full time basis is likely to have dropped, leading to a potential skills shortage in those disciplines. Leading organisations, therefore need to consider offering alternative entry routes to their organisations, attracting high quality school leavers to feed their talent pipeline. EC Harris has been involved in a number of professional apprenticeship initiatives with across the UK.

One such programme is the Advanced Apprenticeship in Surveying. This apprenticeship pathway enables school leavers to progress through job based NVQ and college based BTEC qualifications straight through to a business sponsored day release degree course, all accredited with the RICS, providing every opportunity for a successful candidate becoming professionally qualified within six years of joining the programme.

Our first cohort of school leavers joined the two year apprenticeship programme in September 2011 and these colleagues have now completed their apprenticeship and are moving on to the next stages of their careers with us. We have found the morale and productivity of all of our apprentices has been high, and early indications anticipate good levels of retention.

From a business perspective the first two years of training are funded by the Skills Funding Agency (employers pay the apprentices a salary) and we have found their to be a host of benefits, including:

• Opportunity to widen potential pool of young talent

• Targeting of candidates from wider socio-economic groups

• Benefits of increased mentoring and coaching skills for supervising members of staff

• Providing an opportunity to demonstrate active participation in an apprenticeship scheme when bidding for certain types of work.

EC Harris doubled their apprentice intake this September, and as we start to see the more positive signs in the economy leading to growth, we know that it is ever more important to develop talent as the earliest possible stages, and the advanced apprenticeship pathways in surveying and project management provide excellent opportunities to achieve this.

Article by Richard Bonner, Partner and Client Service Operations Leader Social Infrastructure at EC Harris LLP