Opinion: how to tailor apprenticeship schemes in PR

Ahead of April 2017’s government apprenticeship levy, Aliya Vigor-Robertson, co-founder at JourneyHR, discusses how PRs can better tailor schemes for new recruits. 

Aliya Vigor-Robertson

With so much attention focused on the Spring Budget, it’s easy to forget that April 2017 marks the start of the government’s apprenticeship levy, which requires UK employers, with a payroll bill of more than £3 million per year, to invest in apprenticeships.

Apprenticeships are meant to be genuine jobs that help participants to develop skills in their chosen field. This way, apprentices can gain the technical knowledge, practical experience and wider skills they need for their immediate job and future career.

Unfortunately, apprenticeships have traditionally been associated with low-level admin tasks and subpar pay at best. The government’s apprenticeship levy aims to right these wrongs by raising the quality and quantity of apprenticeships across many different industries, including PR.

To make the most of this opportunity, however, PR agencies have some work to do. For a start, more needs to be done to tailor the schemes so that trainees are being taught the practical skills they will need to become a valuable member of a PR team. For example, developing skills such as pitching to journalists, client liaison and written work will all help the apprentice to meet the demands of working in the PR industry.

Benefits for the business

It’s not hard to see why the introduction of an apprenticeship scheme makes sense for the PR industry. With the cost of university fees having risen dramatically in the past few years, many people have less of an appetite for higher education and would rather look for other ways to break into the industry.

Most PR apprenticeship schemes are still in their infancy, however, which means that the standards that apprentices need to learn are still developing. Agencies should therefore make the most of the opportunity to work with the developers of these schemes to clearly define their standards so that the quality of the apprentices being produced boosts the industry for years to come.

A common misconception when it comes to apprenticeships is that they are only for younger people, straight out of education, but this is not the case. Businesses that are required to pay the levy can opt to spend their contribution on up-skilling their existing staff by sending them on relevant courses or training programmes. This not only benefits the employee, but also the agency, since the opportunity to develop new skills will help the team feel more confident, motivated and engaged.

Whether an agency is required to pay the levy or not, April should be welcomed as an opportunity to introduce change and make the most of the opportunities that having an apprentice can offer the company. By creating a scheme that benefits both the apprentice and the company, agencies have the chance to boost their skills internally and enhance their offering at the same time.

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