Gone are the days where the word apprentice had connotations of being underpaid, undervalued and poorly skilled. Sadly, that is the way apprentices and apprenticeships were viewed a few years ago and as such, the attitude to apprenticeships reflected this. Whilst the outlook of what an apprenticeship is has now developed, we must acknowledge that there has been an immense shift in the popularity of university education routes, which has had an adverse impact on the amount of school and college leavers opting for the apprenticeship route. There is an insurmountable amount of pressure on young people to choose and plan for their career path at such a young age, so is it any wonder that the university route has quickly become the ‘norm’ for many young people when it provides them with breathing room and more time to decide what industry they want to go into? However, with increasing tuition fees and accommodation costs for university students, unfortunately this route may become less and less accessible to the vast majority and opting for an apprenticeship route with industry experience and salary may be preferable.

Making decisions that inform the way in which your career shapes out is no mean feat, especially when you are asked to do so from the age of 16 (or younger!), so you may be wondering “how can young people be confident in their decision when choosing an early years apprenticeship route?”. It is imperative that the young people of today are sure of their decision and are aware of the differing routes available to them. The apprenticeship route not only provides real life experience in a nursery with a salary, it also caters for differing learning styles. Formal education is not something that appeals to everyone and for some, sitting in a classroom and listening to a teacher is not the way in which they learn and absorb information, best. We live in an age where formal education is not the only option for gaining further qualifications and an apprenticeship really appeals to those people who learn best by experience, ‘doing’ and less so, through classroom-based teaching.

At Acorn, we place great emphasis on the benefits of placements for students at college or those who want to experience working in an early years setting before committing to further study on the topic, or opting for an apprenticeship in the early years sector. We are proud to work with some excellent local colleges and schools to provide work experience placements for their students; building on their knowledge and understanding of the sector and helping them to inform their future career.

Since the introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy in 2017 and the roll out of the new apprenticeship standards in 2020, we have seen apprenticeships flourish, with more diversity in age and gender, increased rates of pay and better variety of industries offering apprenticeships. Taking on an apprentice has never been more accessible and the knowledge, skills and behaviours that they can learn through an apprenticeship route are excellent. At Acorn, we truly believe that our apprentices are an integral part of our workforce and appreciate that there is more to being an apprentice than earning a wage and gaining a qualification simultaneously. Whilst the apprentice takes on the responsibility of their own qualification, the employer has a duty of care to create a create a culture of nurture and support within its organisation to enable the apprentice to flourish. Acorn apprentices receive four dedicated workshop days that provide training experiences that are in-line with their qualification modules, four companywide training days, ongoing support from me - Acorn’s Training and Development Manager and direct guidance from our Acorn Mentors (who are trained in supporting apprentices). We are proud of the support system that we offer our apprentices and were delighted to receive the award for Large Employer of the Year at the Milton Keynes Apprenticeship Awards in September. We now offer level 5 apprenticeships as well as the more usual levels 2 and 3, and look forward to developing apprenticeships further. Please do contact me if you’d like further information or if you would like to download our application form, click here

Neave Taylor

([email protected])