National Apprenticeship Week featured prominently in the media earlier this month, which made us think about the scheme and how it is represented in Academic Publishing. We therefore decided to speak to several people involved and have received so many good responses that we have decided to create two blog posts about it.
This is the first, which introduces the scheme.
In the UK, the Education and Skills Act was passed 12 years ago; it makes education or training compulsory until the age of 18. This means that all young people are expected to continue learning after they have reached school leaving age at 16, and the government has since put various schemes in place to give everyone opportunities to shape this learning according to their interests and needs. This does not necessarily mean that everyone has to continue going to school – the training can, for example, be fulfilled by taking up on-the job training; and later this year the new T-Levels will be introduced, to provide qualifications for 16 to 18 year olds who do not want to go down the route of (more academic) A-Levels. Whilst T-Levels will offer a mixture of classroom and “on-the-job” learning, apprenticeships offer an additional option to school leavers. These are mainly focused on the workspace (like other workers, apprentices earn a salary and have the right to paid holidays), but allow the apprentices time off for academic learning, in conjunction with a Training Provider.
With the high increase of university tuition fees 8 years ago and the government’s strong support of a newly-created apprenticeship scheme, apprenticeships have become an attractive alternative for some students who have completed their A-Levels. The government has introduced nationally recognised standards and in recent years, apprentices have become more and more part of the workforce, including the Academic Publishing industry.
So, what is the scheme?
Apprentices usually work in a full-time post at a company, receiving on-the-job training and gaining the skills and knowledge necessary for the job. However, unlike an untrained or unqualified member of staff who will simply learn a job by doing, apprentices are supported by the Training Provider – they are enrolled on a course that provides theoretical learning needed for the job (up to 20% of the time); an independent mentor who is in weekly contact with the apprentice to monitor their progress and answer questions; and pastoral care. Apprentices receive a basic salary (in Academic Publishing it usually is somewhere between £14,500 and £19,000 pa) and get the course fees paid via Apprenticeship Levy funds.
These entry-level apprenticeships usually take around 18 months.
The Apprenticeship Levy was introduced by the government in 2017, to support more apprentices. The Levy is a tax paid by every business that has an annual pay bill of more than £3million and the money is held in a fund that the employer can access to train staff who are doing an apprenticeship. Surplus money is used to cross-fund apprenticeship courses at smaller companies. These companies do not pay into the levy, but can still appoint apprentices – the cost is then split between the government (which covers 95% of the cost through the levy) and the employer, which covers 5% of the cost, plus the apprentice’s salary.
When talking about apprentices, many people will think of school leavers who join the workforce for the first time through their apprenticeship. These are usually called “Level 3” apprenticeships, and there are many different courses to choose from. The ones typically offered in Academic Publishing might include Business Administration, Customer Services, Accountancy, Project Management or – a newly accredited standard – Publishing Assistant. However, employers also have the option to use the levy to offer apprenticeship learning to existing colleagues to further their education in work-related qualifications. These apprenticeships range from mid-level qualifications (such as Data Analysis or Operations Management) to a degree-level apprenticeship such as a Senior Leader Master’s Degree, which is the equivalent of an MBA. Like entry-level apprenticeships, these are studied for whilst the apprentice is working; the apprentice doesn’t pay for any tuition fees and continues to earn a salary, but is given 20% of working time off to study.
The courses are taught in block seminars, or through online learning; and it is a statutory requirement that all apprentices are given “20% off-the-job” learning during the working week. This might be done one day per week, or spread across the week, depending on individual circumstances.
Why do companies engage in the scheme? In an interview with Heidi Mulvey, Head of Community Engagement at Cambridge University Press, she made the reasons clear:
“We started employing apprentices in 2012, before the levy was introduced, initially with roles in shared services such as Customer Services, HR and IT. Now we employ apprentices in departments right across the business and we currently have 28 entry-level apprentices, plus more than 50 colleagues who are using apprenticeships to further their development.
Apprenticeships are helping us to attract fantastic new people into the business, many of whom, for a variety of reasons, did not go to University. Most of our apprentices have A-Levels or equivalent, though in some cases candidates as young as 16 have been successful in their applications, which really demonstrates how much they have to offer: their potential is more important than their formal qualifications, and the apprenticeship provides training around the skills and knowledge needed for their role, whilst they also learn their role. Apprenticeships are playing a big part in helping us attract diverse new talent into publishing, and our apprentices are bringing in fresh and innovative thinking.
Most of our apprentices stay at the Press when they have finished their apprenticeships and have opportunities to continue their development and gain promotions. One of our earliest apprentices now manages an apprentice herself and two others are doing a degree apprenticeship. This opportunity to earn while you learn has become a very viable and attractive alternative to the classic career path of a university degree and graduate training.”
…please also read our next post, in which three apprentices in Academic Publishing will tell us about their experiences.
Many thanks to Heidi Mulvey, Cambridge University Press, who provided a lot of the insight for this article.
[Written by Annika Bennett, Gold Leaf]