What you need to know...
Apprenticeships are often thought of as a way to onboard young talent to create the next generation of workers. It can also be a method an organisation uses to enhance retention or boost staff performance.
Apprenticeships are a great fit for the industrial science sector. But are sadly under-utilised. Workers in the science sector who are keen to develop existing skills and new recruits can take advantage of on the job training opportunities to enhance their career options while improving productivity. We need to make organisations in the UK science sector aware of this brilliant scheme that will bolster their bottom line.
Organisations often experience high rates of churn for workers who join at entry level. Apprenticeship data tells us that these rates of churn are significantly reduced when entry level staff are engaged on a relevant, well-structured work-based learning programmes. Apprenticeships can help individuals refine their skills, boost motivation, fill crucial gaps in the business and allow more senior staff to contribute more focused billable hours to an organisation.
The unique benefit of apprenticeships is that this approach is well-suited for anyone of any qualifying age and apprenticeships have a broad range of academic challenge from level 2 (GCSE equivalent) through to Level 7 (Masters equivalent).
A few stipulations are required for organisations to up-skill their staff this way. The apprenticeship must be linked to the worker’s current role, allow for new skill development in a chosen occupation, and include learning outside of their existing qualifications.
Employees who up-skill through apprenticeships do not need a different contract. The terms and conditions of employment do not change. The only difference is that some employers will offer a fixed term contract to apprentices entering the business with an offer of a permanent contract upon graduation, dependant on financial position of the business and the apprentice’s performance.
Apprenticeships Are Perfect for Small Businesses
Over the past decade the apprentice route has started to gain traction with some large employers. It is becoming an essential part of some larger organisations talent pipeline
One of the misconceptions around apprenticeships is that only large companies provide this opportunity. That idea could not be further from the truth!
Why does that perception persist? Small business owners often see the idea of someone being job-ready in a different light. Large organisations are thought to have resources that allow for specialisation in ways that may not be available to a start up or even an established SME.
The curricula remains the same. Training naturally occurs for new workers in any industry. Any business operating in the science sector can benefit from this approach. There are some excellent resources out there for small business that are considering apprenticeships, so much so, that from a HR perspective the process of recruiting and employing an apprentice is often refereed to as a "cut and paste" exercise.
Apprentices are required to spend at least 20% of their contracted hours as off-the-job training (OJT). However, a good training provider will highlight the benefits and the full range of activities that constitute OJT.
New Industry led, trailblazer apprenticeship standards are in almost constant development and all available apprenticeships can be found on the Institute for apprenticeships and technical education website ( This gives SME's a diverse selection of industry focused, work-based leaning options that they can use to build their own talent pipelines to future proof their business.
Mining Untapped Potential Through Apprenticeships
College and school leavers historically have taken the University route to gain employment in the science sector. However, it is a little known fact that there are some outstanding technical apprenticeships available in laboratory science, scientific manufacturing, clinical trials and scientific research.
Scientific apprenticeships offer the knowledge, skills and experience required to work in the UK's flourishing science sector, whether that's vaccine development, working in the nuclear industry, green technology development, healthcare, aerospace, academic research, food testing... the list goes on.
Scientific organisations who want to plan for their future success must tap into this new "non university" demographic because an impressive amount of potential talent exists there. A fresh perspective can take organisations to the next level of innovation. There is validated data around the success and benefits of apprenticeships and to summarise this data tells us that:
Apprenticeships provide skilled workers for the future
Apprenticeships increase staff loyalty and retention
Apprenticeships increase a company's bottom line
Apprenticeships free up existing staff time
Apprentices can revitalise a company
We just need the science sector to realise the true value of work-based learning and to understand that not every vacancy should be a job description for a graduate.