How apprenticeships will close the skills gap

First published by World of Learning.

On my website, you can read that I did an apprenticeship as a travel agent and tour guide. It was a stressful time in my life but one I remember fondly and some of the best friends I still have to this day are from this time. We suffered together, grew together, succeeded together.

I finished my apprenticeship in 2007, one year before the 2008 financial crisis. Since then, skills shortages in Germany, where I am from, and several other countries exploded.

In 2018, 91% of UK organisations struggled to find talent with the right skills and spent £6.3 billion trying to patch up the holes in their workforce skills gap. The race for talent has never been more heated.

Apprenticeships are where it’s at. In Germany, they are a suitable and well-respected option to going to University. It perfectly combines on-the-job learning with studying at a vocational school. What better way to close your skills gap than training your very own experts?

Often, I hear from people that studied that University does not prepare you for what is expected from you in the working world. I can vouch that an apprenticeship will. Apprenticeships are the key to a sustainable business: a learning and performance culture that develops the right skills inhouse to increase productivity.

A recently published report by the Open University and TrainingZone confirms that “apprenticeships help companies thrive through a combination of building skills that are relevant and rigorous, attracting and retaining talent, and creating high-performance teams.” This is music to my ears! Having been able to complete an apprenticeship myself, I cannot emphasise enough how much it taught me about the job it prepared me for but also about life. Us apprentices collaborated to make the whole experience more enjoyable for everyone. On-the-job learning played a big role and was far more valuable than any workshop or eLearning module I can think of. Getting our diploma at the end of the three years made us, our employer and families extremely proud. Being apprentices not only meant forming bonds with each other, but also with our employer. A lot of us stayed on for years to come, shaping and educating the next generation of apprentices.

At the same time, we cannot rely on schools and employers to teach us everything we need to know. We need to take initiative and ownership of our own development, but employers need to take responsibility of providing the tools and opportunities to learn.

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