Employers want work experience, not degrees

Next week is National Apprenticeship Week – a week-long celebration of all that’s good and positive about apprenticeships. During Apprenticeship Week, focus invariably turns to skills and how we as a nation are creating the workforce of tomorrow.

The young people our education and training systems send out into the world impact on the job market. UK employers, currently, are demanding tech skills. We have a digital skills gap in this country and apprenticeships are 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 solution. Qualifications are obviously crucial to filling skills gaps, but employers are looking for more than theory to fill roles. Research around the skills businesses want 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 things employers looked for.

Government campaign champions the value of apprenticeships

Degree versus apprenticeship 

Around A-level and GCSE results day, young people instinctively look at the next stage and university. But research would indicate 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 ob 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.

The value of apprenticeships and experience in a role has been demonstrated by large employers like Amazon, who recently pledged to create 1,000 Apprenticeship roles before 2021. Employers are increasingly reviewing how they hire and upskill their staff. 

Apprenticeships are growing in popularity, with higher skilled apprenticeships feeding the need for IT and digital skills increasingly being the favoured option for employers. With the size of the IT workforce continues to grow and is projected to increase by more than 14,000 jobs in 2019 – employers need to be looking at all the options available to fill their skills gaps.