Recruiting specialist Hays New Zealand recently revealed research which suggests that apprenticeships may now be the ‘magic bullet’ to close the skills gap and end youth unemployment. “There has been a shift to some extent,” says Jason Walker, managing director of Hays New Zealand. “Not everyone wants to go to university and the stigma attached to vocational pathways is reducing – although there still needs to be more done to further reduce the stigma associated with vocational training over university study.”

He says the perception you’ll earn more long-term by completing a degree, rather than an apprenticeship, is still there, but the reality is that many tradespeople earn excellent salaries, so it’s no longer always the case. While the tertiary education system turns out record numbers of graduates struggling to find work, many trades are crying out for employees, particularly in engineering and construction industries.

“The Christchurch rebuild and the ongoing employability of many tradies during the downturn has recently helped to reduce the stigma,” says Walker. “People saw that tradespeople were still needed during the downturn, while many degree-qualified professionals saw the demand for their skills drop.”

The rising cost of university education has also led some young people to favour an apprenticeship over a degree and there are more options than ever for apprenticeships, which now exist in virtually every industry sector. For example, Starbucks launched an apprenticeship programme in the UK in 2012, offering young people a foot on the first rung of the ladder of a retail management career and the chance to build transferable skills. “Most people know of at least one person who has graduated in softer disciplines, such as fine arts or social sciences, who struggled to find work in their field,” says Walker. “In our increasingly technologically sophisticated world of work, apprenticeships are delivering entry-level candidates who are job-ready.”

Statistics New Zealand’s labour market statistics for the September 2015 quarter show the highest growth in the labour force was for people aged 20-29 years. But apprenticeships are no longer just for the youngest worker, with changes made in 2014 to include anyone over the age of 16 in the NZ Apprenticeship scheme. Previously, it was available only for people aged between 16 and 21.

Unlike internships, which have received a bad rap for being unpaid and solely job-based, apprenticeships are paid and combine classroom learning with on-the-job training, including work experience over a much longer period of time. “The employer and educational institution are often in contact regarding the apprentice’s progress and in some arrangements the apprentice has to pass all or most of their subjects as a condition of their ongoing employment,” says Walker.

 

Source: New Zealand Herald

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