Laura-Jane is the CEO of Youth Employment UK, a not-for-profit company set up in 2012 to support all those working in the youth employment space. Rhiannon, 18, is currently doing a 12-month Level 3 Social Media apprenticeship with Youth Employment UK. She runs all the organisation's social media, takes pictures at Youth Employment UK events and does public speaking to encourage young people to take up apprenticeship.

 

Why did you choose to hire an apprentice?

Laura-Jane: The apprenticeships pathway is so strong. A good quality apprenticeship is a phenomenal opportunity for young people to learn and develop. Rhiannon is totally up-to-date on social media, marketing and the views of young people — who make up 50 per cent of our target audience, after all. It's a two-way street. I've learnt a lot from Rhiannon about social media and how to engage with different audiences.

Why did you choose an apprenticeship over university?

Rhiannon: I did my A Levels at 16, but found study and home life very difficult to balance. I then went on to do a BTEC, but that didn't work well, either. Essentially, I discovered that I'm a hands-on learner and I wanted to start work.

How did you go about establishing your apprenticeship programme?

Laura-Jane: My first contact was with the apprenticeship training provider 3AAA. I had a conversation with them because I felt we had a great opportunity for an apprentice, and the time to invest in giving them the support they needed. I sent a job description to 3AAA who managed the whole process. As a small business, that was invaluable as I didn't have time to do the recruitment and resourcing on my own.

How did you find your apprenticeship and where did you look for the information?

Rhiannon: My photography tutor told me to think about apprenticeships. I didn't know much about them before that. I then went to 3AAA and found out more from them — which apprenticeships I could do, and which ones might not be relevant to me — and that was a real eye-opener. 3AAA also helped with 'employability' sessions and interview tips. It felt as though they were on my side.

What have been the benefits of hiring an apprentice?

Laura-Jane: It feels right to me — particularly in our organisation — that we give a young person an opportunity. That was a big driver. I'm sure a graduate would have been excellent at supporting our growth and development, just as Rhiannon is doing. But I wanted to give a young person a great chance of a great career.

What are the advantages of doing an apprenticeship that your peers at university don't experience?

Rhiannon: In a work environment I have more experiences that I would have in an academic one. For example, you may learn about a crisis communication policy on paper; but when you're actually having to deal with one, it's a bit different! Speaking in front of 200 people at an event has also helped me develop in my role, but also given me confidence as a person.

What advice would you give to businesses thinking about starting an apprenticeship programme?

Laura-Jane: Forget everything you think you know about young people, because the majority are hungry and ambitious. And then find a great training provider — be it a college or an independent — to build a relationship with. They will support you through the whole process. And go for it! It'll be good for you to learn how to be a mentor to — and a supporter of — young people.

What advice would you give to young people weighing up their options?

Rhiannon: Think about your strengths. If you have a good memory or love reading then the academic route might be best. But, for me, I like practical situations where I learn as I go. That's when I do really well.