The secret to providing a successful apprenticeship

Employers and learners have told how apprenticeship programmes have transformed their companies and informed their careers.

De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) joined employers and apprentices for a special panel session as part of National Apprenticeship Week, which aims to highlight the benefits of apprenticeships to companies of all sizes.

Leicestershire Police, Leicester’s Hospitals, ShowSec and Siemens – just some of the companies who work with DMU to deliver apprenticeship programmes – joined Pro Vice Chancellor Enterprise, Professor David Mba, to field questions from bosses thinking of taking on apprentices and share their best advice on how to make the most of apprenticeships.

DMU is a centre for excellence for apprenticeships in the region, drawing on decades of experience in providing vocational programmes tailored to business needs.

Hundreds of students are enrolled on apprenticeships at DMU, which offers nine different apprenticeship courses from undergraduate to Master’s level. A further five courses are being developed.

Professor Mba said: “This event focuses on supporting apprentices in the workplace – not just in terms of ‘who’ in the company should have the opportunity – but what support is required to make sure they have a successful experience and ultimately, a good apprenticeship.”

Prof David Mba
Professor David Mba

Here are the five key takeaways from DMU’s event:

"Having apprentices on the team can revitalise your workforce," explains Colin Kendall, of Siemens. He advises enlisting the support of older members of the team as mentors for new faces, and making them part of the programme. He said: “Apprentices, even if they are not ‘new faces’, bring new ways of thinking about things into an organisation. You won’t believe the effect it has on older staff when you have this injection of enthusiasm – it’s infectious.

“The difference it can have on your established staff, and the culture, is enormous.”

ShowSec – which employs 4,500 staff in the UK, Europe and UAE – had assumed that an MBA would be the best course for its senior staff. But then trainer Claire Pettitt examined the modules which were taught on the MBA and the Senior Leader Master’s Apprenticeship, and found the latter was a better fit. She explained: “We spent a lot of time talking to DMU’s apprenticeships team about what our needs were as a company and for us, we wanted to future-proof the business and create a succession plan. So when we looked into it, we found that the Senior Leaders’ apprenticeship covered the topics that we wanted to."

"Recruiting the right people with the right skills is never easy and the old mantra 'grow your own' has been really successful for us," says Liz Melville, of University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust. UHL has enrolled more than 500 apprentices since 2017, and the average age of an apprentice is 32.

Leicester’s hospitals team engage with line managers to help their apprentices. They run training for line managers to help them understand what their direct reports will be studying and mentors often attend inductions to get an overview of the course, as well as meet tutors.

A key takeaway from everyone was to protect the time that the apprentice needs for study days. “It’s easy for employers to say, ‘oh but we have got a big event on that date so we need everyone in the office’ but you have to be ruthless and block the time,” said Claire Pettitt from ShowSec.

Colin Kendall, talent manager for global technology firm Siemens, agreed. He said: “If you are serious about apprenticeships, and you are doing it for the right reasons, you need to protect their time or you won’t see the best out of it. You will come up against lots of people who don’t necessarily understand the commitment and I think it’s about educating them.”

ShowSec Head of HR Michelle Abade, who is doing a Senior Leaders Master’s Apprenticeship, said her best advice was to plan: “You need to be really clear about when you are going to study, block time out, tell people when you are not available and why.

“So my team know when my study days are and I know when my modules begin, when the assignments are due. You have to diary everything, because it’s not just your work time, it’s your personal time when you are working at home.”

Interested in finding out more about apprenticeships? Visit or email

Posted on Tuesday 10 March 2020

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