The UK has been lagging behind the rest of Europe when it comes to apprenticeships, and the Government and businesses are examining ways in which we can improve our systems to encourage young people into the system.
Ulrich Hoppe, the Director-General of the German-British Chamber of Industry and Commerce, which is based in London, believes that one of the major differences between UK and European apprentices is the way in which they view their role.
Young people in the UK tend to see an apprenticeship as a job that pays a salary while providing training, and with the emphasis on earning power, an apprentice is likely to move jobs if they feel that they could earn a better salary elsewhere.
Trainees compete to see who can achieve the highest rewards, and many UK businesses find themselves unable to meet the young person’s expectations regarding payment. This leads to a negative spiral, in which fewer companies offer apprenticeships, which in turn means less choice for young people who are in need of training.
By way of contrast, in Germany, the role of apprentice is viewed as part of the educational process and is considered a rite of passage. Businesses pride themselves on the quality of training that they provide to their apprentices, and the role is seen as a clear extension of the education process. All business that run an apprenticeship program work in collaboration with schools, local government, chambers of commerce and unions, to ensure that the training is relevant, interesting and of a sufficiently high standard.
A young German apprentice doesn’t expect to receive a high salary, with the average wage for an apprentice coming in at around 450 – 800 Euros per month, which equates to between £400 and £700. The trainees are delighted to receive such a sum, and smaller businesses are able to afford the outlay, which means that plenty of businesses can offer apprenticeships to young people, giving them a good choice of options.
One company based in Bremerhaven, Logwin, reports that it hosts a scheme that supports two apprenticeships each year. These trainees work on site for most of the week, spending two mornings at a vocational college for further training. Logwin also organises additional training for its apprentices to make sure that they have access to all of the information that they need to enable them to pass their final exams.
The company is small, with two apprentices accounting for 10% of the workforce, so isn’t necessarily able to offer trainees a permanent position once they qualify, but it helps all trainees to source permanent employment at the end of the programme.
Meanwhile, in Austria, students are obliged to attend specialist careers advisory centres once they reach the age of 14, where they are assessed for a range of career options. As a result, almost half of the most intelligent students to the west of the country, where tourism and handcrafted goods are the major industries, enter into apprenticeship programmes, which are seen as popular and viable alternative to university, something that the UK is now keen to emulate.
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