Accounting and finance apprentices report above-average support

Accounting and finance apprentices receive above average support from HR teams during their apprenticeship programmes, according to an analysis of post-apprenticeship data captured over five years from more than 15,000 apprentices across nine industry sectors

The research showed that apprentices rate the sector above average for providing HR support with an index score of 76 against the all-sector average of 74.

Management support given to accounting and finance apprentices matches the average figure across each of the sectors (78). This was highlighted in the research as the most important factor in making apprentices feel valued in the workplace.

The amount of admin tasks undertaken by apprentices in the sector indexes at 35 points, just one point above the all-sector average but seven index points fewer than banking and 10 points fewer than law, meaning that banking and law apprentices do comparatively more admin work than those in accounting.

Opportunities for learning identified by accounting apprentices stood at 45 points in the index, greater than banking (27), business apprenticeships (41) and similar to law (47) and IT and telecoms (48).

The survey was conducted by RMP Enterprise, early talent attraction experts and owners of the RateMyApprenticeship website, which said that the overall decline in apprentices doing admin tasks and focusing on more meaningful work means companies are now reframing apprenticeships as a more credible, future talent pipeline. Overall, apprentices willing to recommend their apprenticeship employer to a friend has averaged 98% in the past five years.

Oliver Sidwell, RMP Enterprise co-founder and director said: ‘Apprentices are increasingly treating their experience as planning for the road ahead and acknowledging it as a worthwhile career choice in its own right.

‘The growth in this sentiment among apprentices is a strong indication to employers that apprenticeships are a valuable investment for attracting the best talent. This is happening at a time when university applications have fallen by 3% and are at the lowest level since 2009.’

Seven elements

RMP Enterprise’s research identified seven elements companies are adopting to create quality apprenticeship programmes.

The most important factor for making apprentices feel valued is inspiring leadership, with more than a third (37%) of apprenticeship reviews in 2018 pointing to the benefit of management appreciation - an increase from 30% five years ago.

Secondly, building up skills was viewed as key. Admin now rates as the least critical skill to develop during training, cited by 7%, compared to communication, which was mentioned by 26%.

Sidwell said the survey also showed that while apprentices are enjoying certain elements of their programme - such as being part of a workplace team (33%), learning (28%) and gaining experience (27%) - they are finding other activities more challenging, such as working with customers (5%), having responsibility (4%) and software and programming (1%). This meant the third requirement was to make clear the long-term value of following the programme.

This requirement is linked to the fourth factor, which is creating a feeling of being passionate about the work and developing apprentices’ confidence. 

The fifth issue is costs, with Sidwell saying that ‘though apprenticeships allow “earning while learning” and gaining experience, their pay can often be pinned to the national minimum wage. To make an apprenticeship programme more viable for the apprentice and to attract the best talent, companies need to think longer term and pay their apprentices enough to minimise financial pressures.’

Another factor is providing opportunities to go beyond the day-to-day, with additional activities including sports and socialising.  The research found interest in volunteering has increased by more than 80% (from 9% of apprentices in 2013 to 17%) in the same period.

Finally, the survey found that using workplace mentors to support apprentices is at its highest level in five years. However, over the whole research period only 14% of apprentices felt the mentoring aspect of their programmes was well-managed, behind training (50%) and induction (31%). Apprentices have also highlighted a steady decline in support from their training providers during the research period.

Sidwell said: ‘It is encouraging to see that mentoring in apprenticeships is on the increase as young people are more likely to trust their peers and ask questions that may be embarrassing to ask more senior management. However, mentors remain an undervalued component of a successful apprenticeship and companies could allocate more of their resources to this element.’

Report by Pat Sweet

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