It’s National Careers Week, and hundreds of thousands of young people will be getting their first ever careers advice. Many more will be choosing their next steps after school, college or university.

Knowing the best route into a dream career will influence many young people’s decisions at this time but also, the way employers secure their talent is key.

Increasingly, many of the country’s largest employers are looking beyond traditional graduate training schemes to fill their talent pipeline and are turning to apprenticeships to fulfill their recruitment needs.

At a time when hundreds of thousands of school leavers will be getting exam results and thinking about their first career steps, there is a noticeable shift in the way young people are being recruited with employers regarding apprenticeships highly and consider apprentices to be a great fit for a business.

Chris Yerrill, sales academy and apprenticeship manager, Exponential-e, explains, “We have always run sales academies at Exponential-e, which represented a huge investment to the company each year. But for the last three years we have been using the apprenticeship programme to complement this investment to create a journey for everyone joining the company.”

“Exponential-e has chosen the apprenticeship route to take on and give opportunities to those from any background, without previous sales experience, to allow them to earn and learn and cut a career within IT sales”, he continues.

Adding, “We look for those that use the programme differently and set out their own career paths. From a business perspective we get to work with raw, fresh talent from any background that we can mould and develop into our business. They embody our business values and we find that we build an incredible amount of employee loyalty.”

Exponential-e are just one of a number of leading brands that are recruiting bright, ambitious school-leavers who want to launch their careers early rather than go to university. Indeed, a great number of employers suggest that young people who start work straight after GCSEs or A levels are often more focused and motivated than graduates who join organisations in their early twenties. But many will recruit a graduate onto an apprenticeship scheme to deliver the work-ready role training they need.

And with increasing costs associated with reading for a degree, a university place is no longer the only measure of academic potential, as many of Gen Z are choosing the apprenticeship route to avoid student loans and take more control of their careers. Rather than waiting three years for a full-time role, many would rather earn while they study for qualifications, and get the invaluable work experience employers crave.

Plus, with the introduction of apprenticeship standards, written for employers by employers those completing their role-relevant apprenticeship are considered more rounded individuals who as well as having the technical skills, display the behaviours and attitudes which their roles, their place of work and their chosen industry requires of them.

What’s the appeal for employers?

It’s not hard to see why employers like to take on apprentices straight from school and train them up to align them with their company ethos. Many businesses believe the apprenticeship route now provides additional value to an existing in-house training programme as it brings a clear emphasis on skill and behaviour development and can offer better support, pastoral care, mentoring and regular coaching provided by a combination of in-house personnel and the chosen training provider.

Practical skills

Employers that manage recruitment in house – or those that leave this to their training provider can adopt rigorous selection procedures to ensure that they choose apprentices with the right attitude, work ethic and potential to enhance their business. In addition, with so much training done in the workplace apprentices develop extensive practical skills, which count for a lot and can fill identified gaps in the employer’s skill set.

Practical skills generally have a more tangible impact on a business than academic ones. The creation of Apprenticeship standards meant a focus on tailoring programmes to the requirements of specific roles, so apprentices develop skills that will actually be used, rather than more theoretical topics.


Employers often report that apprentices, especially those who come straight from school, can embrace a workplace culture more quickly than their graduate counterparts who have had considerable autonomy over their free time, study time and holiday periods over a three-year degree period.

Positive attitude

Employers similarly notice that some graduates may struggle to readjust to the idea of ‘starting at the bottom’, having reached a pinnacle of academic achievement and standing with their degree qualification. School leaver apprentices, on the other hand, feel that they are naturally stepping up from school into their career, so are more willing to embrace the inevitable junior aspects of any first job.

Best of both worlds

As noted in a previous posts, however, for many employers utilising apprenticeships the choice no longer has to be between school, college or university leavers as the introduction of the apprenticeship levy relaxed eligibility laws to allow graduates to do an apprenticeship. The caveat is that the apprenticeship must come with substantial new learning to any previous qualifications.