Do you have an effective plan in place for the recruitment, training and retention of your staff, or does the thought of a resignation letter landing on your desk fill you with dread? 

There are many challenges facing early years leaders today, but the issue of attracting staff into the industry and then training them in a way that is useful and relevant to real-life settings is problematic. Sometimes potential staff are unqualified and/or you don’t have the money to train them from scratch - or you want to have more of an input into their training. Sometimes you are looking to upskill existing staff, but you don’t want to lose them as employees whilst they train.  

Luckily, some solutions could be ideal for your setting, and those solutions are apprenticeships.  

Apprenticeships? Aren’t They Old-fashioned? 

Some people have an outdated view of apprenticeships, thinking they are only for the traditional trade industries such as plumbers and carpenters, but nowadays, the apprentice route to employment is a well-trodden path and people can train in thousands of industries as an apprentice, learning on the job and earning whilst they learn too. There are apprenticeships to become qualified teachers, business analysts, marketing managers, hairdressers, and engineers too, and there are entry levels from unqualified to degree level.  

And yes, early years apprenticeships are available and well-funded too! 

The Government have raised the profile of apprenticeships in recent years as industries struggled to find enough workers leaving education with the skills they need to fill the posts they needed. Additional training was often required to upskill staff, so routes to employment that also included an educational part became more attractive.  

Step forward, the humble but powerful, apprenticeship.   

National Apprenticeship Week 

National Apprenticeship Week (NAW) takes place from 5 - 11 February 2024 and is a great opportunity for the education and skills sectors to come together to match people to jobs, as well as celebrate and honour the achievements of apprentices around the country. There is no doubt that apprentices have a very positive impact on businesses, local communities, and the wider economy and now is the time to recognise their importance. 

The theme for this year’s week is “Skills For Life” (#SkillsForLife and #NAW2024) which emphasises that apprenticeships are no longer simply a way to get a ‘foot in the door’. Many apprenticeships now offer higher qualifications, up to and including degree and post-graduate qualifications so there really is something for everyone in the apprenticeship scheme.  

Many early years settings have a long history of working with the Government, local colleges and training providers to offer apprenticeships at several levels and have found them to be an invaluable source of staff recruitment and training.  

What Is An Apprenticeship? 

The Government’s definition of an apprenticeship is: 

“A paid job where the employee learns and gains valuable experiences. Alongside on-the-job training, apprentices spend at least 20%* of their working hours completing classroom-based learning with a college, university or training provider which leads to a nationally recognised qualification.” * This equates to an average of 6 hours per week on a 30-hour week. 

Apprenticeships are a way of providing hands-on experience in a sector or role of interest to the apprentice with a formal assessment which leads to a nationally recognised qualification. One of the best parts, however, is that the person is learning on the job and because it is a job, they get paid a wage whilst learning. Since many apprenticeships are designed with the needs of the end employer in mind too, many apprenticeships can lead on to further employment at the end of the training period.  

How Are Apprenticeships Funded? 

Many courses for young people (16-21) are fully funded by the Government which means that most employers don’t pay anything and there are no course fees to pay. Apprentices should be paid minimum wage at least, but this can be covered 100% by the Government if they are aged 16-18. Most apprenticeships for older people carry substantial Government funding too.    

There are also incentive schemes for recruiting young people. Employers and training providers could receive £1,000 each if they recruit an apprentice who is either:  

  • Aged 16 to 18 years old 
  • Aged 19 to 25 years old and has an education, health and care (EHC) plan 
  • Has been in the care of their local authority 

How Can Apprenticeships Be Useful In Early Years? 

Apprenticeships are a popular tried and trusted way for early years settings to help recruit and fund first-time job seekers because they are accredited and mostly fully funded. Apprentices here usually start with a Level 2 or Level 3 Childcare qualification. 

However, there are also higher-level apprenticeships and apprenticeships also include things like: 

  • Early Years Educator 
  • Teacher 
  • Learning mentor (Teaching Assistant) 
  • Children, Young People & Families Manager 

Parenta specialises in training people in: 

  • Level 2 Childcare (EYP)  
  • Level 3 Childcare (EYE)
  • Level 3 Team Leader  
  • Level 5 EYLP 

Apprenticeships can also involve specialisms in areas like music or working with pupils with special educational needs or challenging behaviour, helping them to overcome barriers to learning and fulfil their potential. 

How Can I Find Out More? 

There is a lot of information on the NAW website at nationalapprenticeshipweek.co.uk. Alternatively, Parenta are experts in recruiting and training apprentices for the early years sector and you can contact them on 0800 002 9242 or visit www.parenta.com/recruit-an-apprentice/. There are also a lot of articles and advice about apprenticeships on the Parenta website at: www.parenta.com/parentablog/childcare-apprenticeships/  

Celebrating National Apprenticeship Week  

We’ve also listed below some other ways you could celebrate NAW in your setting: 

  • Reach out to local schools and colleges to speak to them about potential apprenticeship opportunities – you could also offer work experience for interested students 
  • Register your interest by signing up for the monthly newsletter on the NAW website 
  • Join one of the employment webinars on the website 
  • Spread the word about NAW on your social media channels 
  • Consider upskilling existing staff with an apprenticeship – possibly a Level 5 EYLP 
  • Call Parenta on 0800 002 9242 for more information 

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