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Apprenticeships: how to create an optimal working environment

Published 12th July 2017 by Alice Grey
Exploring the characteristics of a quality apprentice employer - Apprentice Tunnel Engineer

In light of the government’s commitment to growing the number and quality of apprenticeships in the UK, Investors in People have carried out research in partnership with the Department for Transport (STAT)*, which explored how to define and measure employer quality, and the impacts of offering a high quality apprenticeship experience.

The research highlights the need for employers to focus on how they develop, support and lead apprentices to achieve exceptional results.

Access the full report here.

An employer perspective

Investors in People asked employers what they think makes a good apprentice employer. Rated significantly higher than anything else, was a clear commitment to the apprentice’s training and qualifications, with 93% of employers saying this was a key characteristic. The offer of clear progression routes (49%) and a supportive workplace (42%) was also regarded as important.

Employers believe that the working environment created for an apprentice is more critical to the success of their experience than tangible benefits such as pay (31%) and employer benefit packages (6%).**

The characteristics of a good apprentice employer

The research highlights the key characteristics of high quality apprentice employers as:

  • an ongoing commitment to apprentices’ training and development.
  • a diverse approach towards apprenticeships, from recruitment through to payment policies.
  • consistent and dedicated support for apprentices.
  • clear progression routes in place for their apprentices at the start, and are transparent about them.
  • a good and/or well established working relationship with their training provider, where constructive communication and troubleshooting can take place throughout the apprenticeship.
  • a strong motivation to take on apprentices for the benefit of both the organisation’s and apprentice’s growth.


Key recommendations for employers aiming for high quality apprenticeships

  • Have an expansive vision which includes a temporally extensive view, in that apprentices are supported not only in gaining immediate technical knowledge to benefit the employer, but also real practical experience and wider skills required for their future career.
  • Provide ‘added value’ learning extending behind the occupation alone, such as soft and transferable skills, including resourcefulness, business-like attitudes, and autonomy.
  • Ensure a clear understanding of the apprenticeship programme they’re offering and its aims, both for them and the apprentice.
  • Have good, close working relationships with training providers so that expectations of the apprenticeship remain aligned between them, and in the apprentice’s best interest.
  • Have the flexibility to adapt to the apprentice rather than the other way around, especially when challenges emerge.
  • Take the lead on designing apprenticeships in a way that matches industry standards and is conducive to preparing the young people for real-life scenarios.


Mike Brown, Commissioner of Transport for London, comments:

I urge employers to consider these areas and ask: are we the best that we can be or should we be doing more to deliver great work experiences for apprentices?


*Strategic Transport Apprenticeship Taskforce

**Exploring the characteristics of a quality apprentice employer, Investors in People 2017