NEET solutions and the definition of an apprenticeship

Angela Middleton
- Leadership - Jul 03, 2015

Apprenticeships are a hot topic at the moment, and have justifiably received a lot of attention. However, there’s not always a clear definition as to what exactly an apprenticeship is, says Angela Middleton, founder and CEO of recruitment and training specialist MiddletonMurray.

We help huge numbers of young people who are NEET (not in education, employment or training) find work through apprenticeship schemes, but what about the other apprenticeships we hear so much about?

All the apprenticeships we provide are for young people, and we place them into their first job. I'm always rather surprised when I attend conferences and find big corporates delivering keynote speeches about their 'apprenticeship schemes'. In some cases, these schemes involve little more than a company training thousands of their existing internal staff – something that they would have done anyway. But by terming this training an ‘apprenticeship’, the company receives additional funding.  

Some companies term jobs that would exist anyway and do not require specific, lengthy training, an ‘apprenticeship’. This undermines the term and means that jobs which do require specialist training are grouped together with those that don’t. I’ve come across companies who even offer ‘50 Plus Apprenticeships’. While it’s fantastic that companies are continuing to invest in their older staff, who are a vital part of the workforce, this training is simply not an apprenticeship – it’s training that would have been given to staff anyway.

We are non-selective at MiddletonMurray. We put young people who are NEET through a traineeship which includes Maths and English and we persuade businesses to give them a chance. Then, we deliver an apprenticeship and set them on a career path of their choosing, which they otherwise would not have had the skills required to enter. We have a huge success rate – 96 percent of young people get into jobs as a result of the traineeship and 93 percent remain in in full time employment after the apprenticeship, 77 percent with the same employer.

At MiddletonMurray, we'll work within the system – however it may operate – but I do think that it would be a shame if our apprenticeship scheme in the UK turns into a reincarnation of the ‘Train to Gain’ programme, which was intended to give individuals over the age of 25 and in existing employment, a career boost.

Some large companies – Barclays, for instance, do set a very positive example with their ‘Life Skills’ programme, which helps to provide young people with the skills required of them in the world of work. However, even this programme is very selective and I personally would like to see programmes like this extended to all young people.

I’m also concerned about the recent talk of scrapping the Level 2 apprenticeship (the equivalent of GCSE passes). Should this ever happen, the door will close even more firmly on those with few qualifications. In my opinion, the right way to train up young people is to pledge a two, or preferably three year commitment through an apprenticeship.

At MiddletonMurray, we first provide young people who come through our doors with a traineeship, which is followed by a Level 2 apprenticeship. Some then go on to Level 3, and we are hoping to extend our offering to Level 4.

It’s clear to me that some training programmes which are called an ‘apprenticeship’ do not always provide the level of training that is indicated by this title. An apprenticeship should be an alternative to the traditional academic route. To call training given to those already in employment (who may already have followed an academic route to university) an ‘apprenticeship’ undermines the true-meaning of the term.

MiddletonMurray is a multi award winning recruitment and training solutions provider located in Sidcup, Canterbury, Romford and Sandwich. Launched by CEO Angela Middleton in 2002, the business now employs 86 permanent members of staff, alongside freelance trainers. Angela Middleton is also the author of How To Get Your First Job…And Build The Career You Want, a guide for 16 to 24 year olds on how to choose the right career, get their first job, excel within that job and quickly progress in the role. 

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