Apprenticeships VS. Graduate Schemes: How to Hire Right for Your Business

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Investing in new talent is paramount for your company’s growth. It is essential for futureproofing your organisation against exterior influences and ensures your business will still be viable for future generations.

Apprenticeships and Graduate Schemes are both popular ways to insert new talent into your business. Both schemes have their own individual benefits, and this article will highlight these advantages to help you decide which new talent investment will be the most beneficial for your company.

Firstly, let’s clear up how these two systems differ from one another.

Apprenticeship Scheme

Apprenticeship Schemes are paid employment that offer educational training, ranging from Level 2 (GCSE equivalent) to Level 7 (Degree equivalent) and last between 12 to 60 months. They provide in-depth, industry-specific training and upon completion the apprentice gains a nationally recognised qualification.

Graduate Scheme

Graduate Schemes are considered an entry-level position, although they are exclusively for recent university graduates and it is preferred that the graduate received a 2:1 or higher overall. The scheme doubles as a training programme and provides work experience across different departments, lasting between 12 and 36 months and upon completion they do not gain any qualifications.

Now we have identified the key similarities and differences, to choose which one is best for your business you must ask yourself why you are establishing, developing, or rethinking your company’s early talent strategy.

1. Are you aiming to keep your expenditure low?

Ultimately, it costs money to hire new people. On average you pay up to double your employee’s salary in hidden costs: national insurance, pension, training, and general equipment all add up. Therefore, the large amount of government funding that supports Apprenticeships is understandably appealing for money-conscious business owners!

Small & medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that take on an apprentice will have up to 95% of the overall costs covered. Large enterprises are required to pay into the Apprenticeship Levy and these contributions are designated solely for investment into early talent through Apprenticeship programmes.

Related article: Making the Most of Your Apprenticeship Levy

As of April 2024, UK apprentices aged 16 to 18 are entitled to £6.40 (National Apprenticeship Wage) per hour regardless of how long they have been in their apprenticeship. This is the same for apprentices aged 19 or over in their first year but goes up to their specific National Minimum Wage amount after they have completed the first year of their apprenticeship. It is worth noting that this is the minimum, and we encourage all employers to pay their apprentices above this to maximise employee retention, efficiency & overall happiness!

The salary for those undertaking a Graduate Scheme is paid entirely by their employer and is not subject to any government funding. The salary amount can range dependent on industry and location, but the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) has identified that the average UK salary for those undertaking a Graduate Scheme is £24,000. Due to this large monetary investment, Graduate Schemes are often offered by larger enterprises as opposed to SMEs.

2. Does your company have the time and experience to provide in-house training?

When considering how to develop or improve your company’s early talent pool, it is vital to ask yourself whether your company has the time and/or experience to provide this in-house training.

Apprentices often come into a new field with little experience, and therefore need some guidance from their employer. This may seem daunting, but it is a unique chance to train an individual from the beginning of their career and completely tailor this training to your business and company-specific processes. This allows you to mould the perfect addition to your team!

While it is common for apprentices to have little industry experience, Apprenticeships are not just for those new to the field! Many graduates go onto an Apprenticeship programme after their degree as further study to gain insights and develop skills the course did not cover.

It is important to remember that Graduate Schemes still require you to provide in-house training. Graduate Schemes should allow an individual the opportunity to rotate across various departments, teams and even locations to gain relevant experience and discover where they are best suited. Hiring a recent graduate means they will come into employment with a basic understanding of your industry but will still need your support and training to help them develop professionally.

Thinking of taking on an apprentice? Baltic can support you with putting together an Apprenticeship training plan! Contact us to find out more

3. Are you aiming to promote diversity in the workplace?

Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, has famously said he relies on his employee’s diverse backgrounds and perspectives to spark innovation. Promoting diversity in the workplace is vital to create a force with a range of skills, but companies can take different approaches to this.

As Apprenticeships are entry-level, Apprenticeship programmes are accessible and allow people of all ages and backgrounds the opportunity to succeed. They allow minority groups (such as women, the BAME community and those from a less privileged background) to enter a career and reap the benefits of educational training and full-time employment. Apprentices may not have much work experience, but they come equipped with their own valuable life experience and knowledge which can benefit your company massively!

Universities are pushing for better student diversity, and we are already seeing the benefits from this social inclusion as the graduate talent pool is hugely diversifying! This is encouraging a shift and we are seeing more minority groups in post-graduate employment, but there are still many ways your company can promote diversity in your workplace! For example, providing targeted Graduate Schemes that aim to hire under-represented groups, blind recruitment, and offering flexible working opportunities.

By diversifying your workforce through hiring either an apprentice or a recent graduate, you will improve company productivity, gain a better understanding of your customer needs, and improve overall employee retention.

4. Can your company benefit from bridging the skills gap?

Fast-developing sectors, such as Tech & Digital, Construction & Engineering, require employees with industry-specific skills. Many industries depend on the regular development of their worker’s skill sets to mirror any new industry findings and to keep up with modern demands.

These demanding roles, and the industries they belong to, are developing at a faster rate than the talent needed to support this growth. Educational content cannot be updated regularly enough to ensure it aligns with current industry standards, and employers are finding even university graduates still need further training.

Apprenticeships can combat this, as an apprentice receives on-the-job training alongside their educational modules. This gives apprentices the opportunity to learn beyond their educational material, they gain additional skills and contemporary knowledge directly from industry experts.

They possess a modern understanding of their industry as they put new trends into practice almost immediately – rather than waiting for courses to be updated. This produces well-rounded employees!

Related reading: How Apprenticeships are Helping Bridge the Software Skills Gap

Graduate Schemes can also act as a bridge to improve the skills gap; they allow graduates to take on a more cross-functional role and provide new starters with the opportunity to explore different departments of the business before settling into a set role. This is beneficial as they learn directly from each role they take on and can carry the assortment of skills and knowledge with them throughout their employment.

Final Thoughts

It is clear to see that there is no ‘One Size Fits All’ approach to whether your company should hire an apprentice or a recent graduate. It is all relative to your business strategy.

Graduate Schemes provide your business with an employee that understands your industry, but due to the lack of relevant work experience they will still need guidance from their employer. Additionally, Graduate Schemes come at a high cost which may not be suitable for all employers.

On the other hand, Apprenticeships allow you to hire for an entry-level job and keep company costs low. Apprentices can come into their role with little industry experience and therefore need guidance, but the good news is that this time investment does not go unrewarded as retention for apprentices is very high!

If you are considering recruiting an apprentice for your business, take a look at the Apprenticeship Programmes we have available.