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Changes in vocational apprenticeship opportunities in the UK, and their impact on the future of the service sectors: Part II

23 April 2019






> Changes in vocational apprenticeship opportunities in the UK, and their impact on the future of the service sectors: Part II

New opportunities to gain work experience and college credit. The traditional path of vocational apprentices has involved a combination of on the job, and academic training with the eventual end goal of creating honed and qualified tradesmen.

Recent shifts in UK policy on vocational apprenticeships have created new hybrid programs which offer traditional vocational training with the additional opportunity to achieve a full Bachelors or Master’s degree upon the completion of the apprenticeship.

The new programs have been deemed ‘Degree apprenticeships’ and formed through partnerships between employers and universities or colleges. The Degree Apprenticeship programme was launched by HRM government in 2015, and lasts between 1-6 years.

Unlike traditional courses in college or university, participants in Degree Apprenticeships allows for greater flexible study method suits to accommodate their employer’s needs – whether that’s distance learning, blended learning or block mode learning.

The qualification for degree apprentices are similar to the higher apprenticeship, where apprentices are expected to hold full-time employment status rather than student status.

However, while higher apprentices have the option to gain a Bachelors-level qualification, university study is mandatory in degree apprenticeships. As well as holding employment status and receiving a wage throughout the course, an apprentice’s tuition fees and training costs are settled between their education institution and employer.”

England has made major strides in its commitment to develop and expand the quality of apprenticeship nationwide. Leading elements which are changing the face of British apprenticeships include; “a new funding arrangement in the form of an employer levy, and major reforms of the apprenticeship system including the development of new apprenticeship standards created in close consultation with employers, and an overall aim of increasing both the quality and quantity of apprenticeships.”

Earning potential of Apprentices in the UK

“In England an apprentice earns between 50% and 60% of the skilled worker wage but this average hides large variations. In 2011 apprentices under 19 earned approximately 32% of the fully qualified rate, while those aged 19-24 earned 49%. In England, according to the law, the minimum wage of apprentices aged under 19, and those aged 19 or over in the first year of their apprenticeships amounts to 47% of the national minimum wage.”

Factors which can trigger a wage increase:

  • Turning 19
  • Completion the first year of an apprenticeship
  • Completion of second year of an apprenticeship
  • Shifts in government regulations

These conditions can trigger a substantial increase in an apprentice’s wage potential, especially if the apprentice is paid the legal minimum. For example, the legal minimum wage of an apprentice who started on a programme at the age of 18 increases in the second year by 60%. As a direct result of the added year on year costs of apprenticeships, many employers limit the length of vocational apprenticeship to between 12-18 months.

Industries most active in supporting apprenticeships in England

BigChange top 5 sectors for apprenticeships graph

Impact of Vocational Apprenticeships on the BigChange Network

Within the BigChange collaborative network there are countless stories of innovative and dynamic individuals who have built upon their vocational apprenticeships to form companies leading the service sectors. Two of our most accomplished customers and members of the collaboration network are Jordan Woods & Michael Cairns.

You’ll have difficulty finding two more dedicated and hard-working young professionals than Jordan & Michael. They truly represent the core values of BigChange, i.e. tirelessly working to help every customer with top notch customer service, quality technical staff and seamless mobile workforce management systems to make a major impact in their collective sectors.

What brought these two young industry leaders to their current positions?

According to Jordan Woods, Founder of Woods Building Maintenance, “I left school at the age of 13 and joined a work-based Learning programme in Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC). After persuading Daniel Robinson, a Director at Industrial & Commercial Heating in Leeds, to let me work for free for a number of years I was finally they given an apprenticeship at 16. Without Daniel giving me that opportunity, I would never have got into the HVAC industry. It just wouldn’t have been a possibility.”

Michael Cairns, Director of Celsius Plumbing reflected frankly on his experiences as a vocational apprentice. “I began my apprenticeship as a plumbing and heating engineer in 2003. At the time, plumbing apprenticeships were dominated by 16-18 year olds but this doesn’t appear to be the case anymore. Do in no small part to the current significant shortage of domestic skilled labour many people are beginning apprenticeships later in life and becoming independent trades people, way more than ever before. This impacts the balance of skilled labour because people are not taking on apprentices’ which could really change the face of the future skilled labour force.”

As a direct result of Michael Cairns experience as a vocational apprentice Celsius Plumbing has championed apprenticeships. “We have been training apprentices here at Celsius since 2007. We have proudly trained 7 apprentices so far, all of whom have gained their full industry qualifications. we currently have an apprentice in his 3rd year and are about to start a new 1st year apprentice, which is really exciting for us. The reason we feel so strongly about taking on apprentices, is because we recognise the value and importance of passing on the knowledge to the next generation. I suppose, I recognise personally how much an apprenticeship shaped my life, I wouldn’t be where I am today without one.”

As a fundamental path to the service sectors, vocational apprenticeships provide hundreds of thousands of people in the UK each year with the technical, on the job and academic training essential for instilling skilled labour in the next generation of service technicians and operators. BigChange strongly believes in the importance of vocational apprenticeships and the skills they transmit to the next generation of service technicians.

As new legislation and government sponsored vocational programmes continue to grow, the opportunities of vocational apprentices to make a meaningful impact in the labour market appear significant.

With the rise of apprenticeships in the UK, BigChange looks forward to ushering in a new generation of service professionals and conveying the value mobile workforce platforms, such as BigChange’s JobWatch, can add in simplifying and centralising operations.

To read more about how the BigChange Mobile Workforce Management system can help your business go paperless click Here.

23rd April 2019



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