Since joining Dallaglio RugbyWorks as CEO in 2011, I have witnessed first-hand the value of apprenticeship schemes for young people. The impact that a well-suited placement can have on a teenager’s future, especially on those who might feel excluded by society, can be game-changing. Through our long-term skills development programme, RugbyWorks, we work with 14-17 year olds outside of mainstream education to help them achieve sustained education, employment or training. A huge part of this includes working with businesses to provide these young people with access to quality apprenticeship placements.
Bringing apprenticeships into the mainstream
We work with a number of Alternative Provision (AP) schools across London, Newcastle, Bristol and South Wales. We work to support students through apprenticeship schemes and into full time employment, a pathway that feels achievable for this particular cohort of teenagers. In fact, in 2016 we saw around 18% of our year 11s move into apprenticeships, which in comparison to 6% of mainstream pupils applying for apprenticeships is a positive sign. There is one story in particular that always sticks out in my mind. We have one young person on the programme, who had previously been caught dealing and taking drugs at age 15. He went on to become an apprentice with a large, national brand. The company was so impressed by him and his potential that they revised their entry age and lowered it to 16 to avoid younger talent being overlooked.
Halfords is a great example of a company that has been a strong and consistent supporter of ours, providing employment for young people nurtured by the RugbyWorks programme. In January 2015, Halfords Autocentres made its first staff appointment as a result of its partnership with Dallaglio RugbyWorks. Of course, this has been fantastic for the young person involved but also, I hope, beneficial to the company that now has a talented new addition to the team.
With success stories such as these, we are very keen to continue raising awareness about the importance of apprenticeship schemes. Particularly ahead of the launch of the apprenticeship levy at the beginning of April. The levy will require all employers operating in the UK, with a pay bill over £3million each year, to invest in apprenticeships. For this reason, apprenticeships are becoming somewhat tainted and seen as an unmanageable expense. There’s no doubt that the increase to investment in apprenticeships will be challenging to businesses of a certain size but it will mean that they have more reason to take advantage of the investment, embrace apprenticeship schemes and train new talent.
In truth, the longer it takes to get the levy off the ground, and the less businesses understand about the advantages of it, the more our most successful pathway is blocked, which could be a disaster for many young people, whether they are in mainstream education or not.