Generation Next takes a closer look into apprenticeships in its first-ever podcast

Posted by: JasmineThompson
Posted on: 14/06/2023

Since new legislation was passed in 2013 for young people to remain in education until the age of 18, many assume the traditional career path follows school, sixth form or college, university, then job. In reality, careers begin in multiple ways, thanks to the development of apprenticeship programmes, T-Level courses and other on-the-job learning options, providing an alternative route into the job market.

Raising awareness around apprenticeship pathways was the main talking point of Generation Next’s first podcast episode, led by EMA Training’s Chloe Farmer, where Generation Next chair Daniel Nikolla joined Peter Ellse from educational resources firm Cosy Direct and apprenticeship ambassador Ruby Birks, from Purpose Media, to discuss the main approaches and trends in the East Midlands.

Jasmine Thompson takes a closer look at the highlights from the podcast.

“A lot of what we discussed as a board last year was around young people who don’t follow a traditional way of education, through college and university, and we started to think about the different aspirations that they have moving forward and we wanted to engage with them,” says Daniel, who is the marketing manager at Hardy Signs.

“We’ve started with apprenticeships, as one of the areas that has been spoken a lot about and has been campaigned around over the years, and we have quite a lot of members in the area.

“We then spoke with EMA, Loughborough College, which is a partner of Generation Next, and other stakeholders like Peter, to discover what the different elements that we needed to deliver on, in order to make some progress on the subject throughout the year.”

Breaking down the stereotypes of apprenticeships for young people, businesses and parents/guardians

Daniel: “One of the main concerns of the providers and companies that get apprentices in was appealing to young people in schools and their parents. Apparently, there are stereotypes around apprenticeships, so we want to break them down.

“We want to make parents and their children understand that apprenticeships are for everyone, not just for certain categories of certain jobs.

“On the back of the podcasts and other things that we’re going to do, we will create a toolkit that we will try and deliver to employers, employees, schools and key stakeholders in the region to make some progress on quite a lot of these points, but it’s mainly around regulating the apprenticeship environment in the region as much as we can.

“If there is some work on influencing salaries or the environment where young people work and grow then that’ll be great, but these are kind of the main sticking points.”

What it’s like to be an apprentice

Ruby, who is a project manager at South Normanton-based full-service marketing agency Purpose Media, won the Apprentice of the Year accolade in the Generation Next Awards last year, and is passionate about raising the profile of different types of apprenticeships through the network.

Ruby: “I would definitely say there’s a lack of awareness when it comes to promoting apprenticeships that are less traditional when I was at school.

“I remember sitting in an apprenticeship session that they ran, and it was myself, one other girl and then a group of boys that wanted to become bricklayers and joiners and things like that. It was very much pushed that apprenticeships were just for physical jobs like that.

“I remember sitting down with our careers advisor and saying, ‘I don’t want to go to university I want to do an apprenticeship’, and she very much pushed that I wanted to go to university even put on my form.

“But then when I started actually looking on my own, I found EMA Training and the digital marketing apprenticeships and support technician apprenticeships, and I realised there’s a lot more apprenticeships and avenues that my school just didn’t tell me.”

An experience of an apprenticeship employer

Through his company Cosy Direct, Peter has six apprentices across disciplines including finance, digital and data science – and wants to hire another 15 in the future.

Peter: “In the last five or six years some of our best people have come through the apprenticeship programme.

“You’ve got to be able to, as a firm, want to get involved with apprenticeships in terms of developing those people.

“You’ve got to make case with your employees, your SLT, your C-suite to explain to them why the apprenticeships are important, but I think that’s certainly growing with the introduction of the degree apprenticeships.

“We’ve got a degree apprentice with us studying data science, so he’s with us four-days a week while at university. Around 10% of people are coming through that now, and it’s great – it’s a lot less expensive for people to do, and a lot more productive.

“I think this is going to become bigger and bigger in terms of the work landscape.”

Equipping young apprentices with the right professional development support

Peter, talking around Ruby’s win at the Generation Next Awards, adds: “A lot of apprentices coming through wouldn’t necessarily understand that they could achieve that visibility in the firm, and that their opinions do count.

“We make sure that there’s more courses going on for the apprentices outside the apprenticeship, one day courses, short courses. They’ve got a mentor in our firm who is not in their department.

“We also spent money through our social fund for them to go out as a six to really bond, to give them confidence, and we give them quite a bit of press.

“Some people still believe now that you can’t give them profile because you might lose them, or they’ll get poached. But our opinion is that we’re either in it for the person to move them up or we’re not – it’s a cohabitation. You may lose one, two people if the job is not quite aligned for them, or you don’t have the creative structure, but you hope that by getting behind them, they’ll recognise that you’re with them for them, for the long term.”

Daniel, whose company Hardy Signs set up an academy six years ago for apprentices coming through the workplace, adds: “I agree with you, Peter, when you say it’s all about the culture, how you really develop and bring these people up.

“I’m classified as young, and I’ve been with the company for five years now, and there are young people in the company that have been there for even longer. So that shows the culture and what you provide for these young people goes miles ahead for a little extra.”

How Generation Next can support apprentices

Through networking, professional development, mentoring and awards opportunities, Generation Next supports and advocates for young professionals working within the East Midlands.

It is run by East Midlands Chamber and collectively with its team, board of champions, ambassadors and partners, is on a mission to retain young talent within the region’s business community.

Daniel: “We want the platform to be there for everyone – we want it to be for someone who’s gone to the university, someone who takes an apprenticeship and finishes an MBA, or someone who isn’t that level, that doesn’t matter as long as you fit within the age.

“There are all sorts of statistics that young people leave the East Midlands to go to even the West Midlands, let alone Manchester or London, so I think all of these different things we’re doing will help that bigger vision – but while remembering the little things we can do to support young professionals through our activity.”

How apprenticeships can help address the skills gap

Chloe, who is the marketing manager at EMA, says: “We have multiple apprentices, but specifically in the marketing department, I have one on a level four and one on a level three course.

“Since being at EMA, they have definitely provided insight, new skills, a new way of looking at marketing, and without having them as a team, it would just be me with my certain level of knowledge.

“It’s definitely helped elevate this and created a really good quarter for us, where we’re looking to innovate and create an impact. Most importantly, retain – so we definitely want to retain top talent within the East Midlands as one of our key objectives. I think that’s where we all align.”

Peter: “It’s our responsibility to pull people through those gaps. We’re co-developers of individuals as they are of our own organisation – we can grow as fast as they grow to a certain extent.

“I think your organisation (EMA) is a classic example of that. You’ve added a lot of skill sets and people that have improved, expanded and widened the relevance of the organisation.”

Chloe: “Yes, we’ve still retained those who started as apprentices – we’ve got one who’s now a senior front-end developer, one who’s our technical project manager. The apprenticeships have really been proven as a great way to train someone on shaping to work how your company works.”

To listen to the podcast in full, visit

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