Employers want Work Experience, not Degrees

With the theme for apprenticeships this year focusing on “Building the Future”, focus turns to skills demand and how we as a nation are creating the workforce of tomorrow.

Our education and training systems send people out into the world, impacting on the job market. UK employers, currently, are demanding tech skills. With a prominent digital skills gap in this country, apprenticeships have been evolving to meet this need. 

But how well is the current education policy servicing employers? And is the education system creating a pool of talent that is enhancing British business and filling the skills gap?

Employers want Skills & Experience

Academic knowledge is only part of the skills shortage problem. Qualifications are obviously crucial to filling skills gaps, but employers are looking for more than theory to fill roles. Research around the skills businesses are demanding indicates that employers favour work experience and apprenticeships over degrees.

A report, conducted by AAT (Association of Accounting Technicians), surveyed business leaders on what skills and knowledge they look for when recruiting new staff.

The survey showed 49% prefer to see the experience from a relevant apprenticeship or previous position, with only 24% saying they prefer to see someone who had a relevant degree qualification.

Also, 71% said they prefer apprenticeships and experience, as it shows candidates have demonstrated their skills in a practical setting. Strong communication skills, punctuality and fitting into a company’s culture are among the top factors employers looked for.

Degree versus Apprenticeship 

Around A-level and GCSE results day, young people instinctively look at the next stage and university. But research indicates they should be looking to programmes like apprenticeships which offer on the job training and the much-desired experience employers look for. While having a university degree is no longer the only pathway into well-paid entry-level roles, there is some question around the impact on earning potential.  

In 2018, the government released sets of data about the career prospects of a degree, broken down by subject of study and institution. While some courses have great earning potential, the data showed that a large number of courses don’t lead to well-paid employment afterwards, which is why the majority of people choose to go to university in the first place.

Apprenticeships Bridging Skills Gaps

In a year of significant change for the way most businesses operate, employers are looking for innovative new solutions to fill their Digital Skills Gaps, and better prepare for the future of working. The way in which most businesses work has shifted toward a huge focus on online delivery and remote working – so the demand for talent in IT Support and Cloud Support has risen, as employers compete even more to attract available applicants.

As the pandemic continues to impact talent availability, employers are adapting by looking at a variety of skills solutions in order to prepare their workforce for future challenges. The viability of apprenticeships as a solution has been demonstrated by large employers like Amazon, who recently pledged to create 1,000 Apprenticeship roles. The government recently extended financial incentives for employers hiring apprentices – a worthy consideration for any organisation reviewing its hiring and upskilling strategy.

Apprenticeships are growing in popularity, with higher skilled apprenticeships feeding the need for IT and digital skills increasingly being the favoured option for employers. As the IT industry is starting to shows signs of growth again, employers need to be looking at all the options available to fill their skills gaps.