Any experience or wisdom on apprenticeships?

I’m keen to hear folks’ experience and views on apprenticeships.

The org i am about to join (on Monday!) as the most senior staff member in a hierarchical structure has a vacancy that my predessor identified as potentially suitable for an apprentice. It makes sense on paper, given the type or work needed, and I really like the idea of supporting someone into work, but I have precisely zero experience of apprenticeship from any angle so would love to hear thoughts from this lovely community.

  • Where does providing a space to learn and develop your skills become exploitatoin of cheap labour?

  • How might bringing in an apprentice change the team dynamic?

  • What should I look for in a training partner (or whatever is the term for the college bit of the whole deal?!)?


Personally I think apprenticeships as a whole ARE a form of exploitation of cheap labour, and if someone is doing work for an organisation they should be paid a living wage for it. I have worked in organisations which had apprentices and some of the individuals definitely had positive experiences so I think it’s important to acknowledge that. But I can’t help but see it as a loophole around paying staff a proper wage and work should always be a space to learn and develop your skills!

1 Like

Thanks for the question @auntieliz. I’m also of the view that @Roxanne highlights around apprenticeships and unpaid internships. I don’t know if there’s a way around the fact that if someone has the stability to do the work without receiving pay, they are almost certainly taking an opportunity to learn and make connections from someone who could only do it if they were receiving pay.

As this is a growing conversation across a lot of orgs - and some funders - would there be any scope to pursue funding to turn this into a more-equitable opportunity, that could actively be working to address unequal access to the kinds of learning and development that you highlight?

Would be interested if anyone felt like sharing funders they’d worked with who were open to those kinds of requests!

Thanks, Roxanne, Liam: it’s really usefulto get perspectiveson this.

I have been assuming that we would pay the Real Living Wage, as we are signed up to the LWF, so for me the inequality might actually be experienced in the other direction, ie why does this team member get so much more training and support than others? However, I haven’t tested that assumption with colleagues yet OR checked everyone else’s salaries.

Other than pay levels, are there other concerns, pitfalls, general thoughts and ideas???

1 Like

Hey Liz,

Thanks so much for your thoughtful question. From what I understand of what you’ve said on here and at Lunch Meets, you are navigating quite a tricky line, going into a new job (in a voluntary sector organisation?) at the top of a hierarchy, and trying to shift things. Have a lot of admiration for how you’re approaching it!

In terms of the apprenticeship question, I wonder if there have been some different understandings in the comments above. I think one thing is the issue of unpaid internships, usually for graduates, in campaigning and social justice organisations, which rightly have become a much-criticised thing in the last however many years. And then there’s the apprenticeship legislation introduced over the last 15 years which has been used (and arguably was intended to be used) as a way to deliberately obtain cheap labour.

My sense from your posts though is that you’re talking about something different though? More about using an apprenticeship as a way to support someone without formal qualifications, and who is likely either young or has been excluded from formal work for an extended period into ‘skilled’ work? And that you’re seeing this more like a ‘traditional’ apprenticeship where the person will be being paid a decent wage while they’re working/learning how to do the joband studying at a local college. Have I got that right?

But those were a while ago so poss not that useful. If you’re able, though, to share a bit more detail about what the org you’re joining does, (either here or if you prefer in a direct message) I can ask a few people with potentially more relevant and recent experience if they are up for sharing here.

I guess a key bit of learning from my pov, was around ensuring that the apprenticeships really are a structured as a route into better-paid and longer-termemployment in the sector and making sure the person does get the learning and qualifications (if required) needed to do that. But to be honest, it sounds like you are already 100% thinking along those lines….

1 Like

Hi Liz,

I’ve just completed this management qualification which was an apprenticeship:

Without knowing what kind of apprenticeship you’re thinking of offering, my main takeaways are:

  • A lot of time needs to be put aside to support learning. In theory, I was supposed to be using one day every week (or 20% of my time) to be studying. In reality, as an operations manager at a small over-stretched charity this was unrealistic. Which led to extra stress and also feeling as though I hadn’t really made the most of the learning experience.
  • It was a good way for my workplace to invest in staff development at low cost (as an apprenticeship the course fees were paid for by the government).
  • I learnt some useful things! Also, the course was full of a load of corporate management theories which I a) couldn’t fit to my workplace without lying in my assignments and b) am morally opposed to. I guess a bit of work investigating the relevance and values of the course you choose would help.

Worth noting, giving other’s concerns, that I was paid my usual (above living wage) salary throughout.


Thanks, Kate that is so useful!

1 Like

Thanks Kiran, for the info and affirmation! Your summary of where I’m at is spot on :grinning: