In honour of National Apprenticeship Week, we spoke with Anna Morrison, the founder of Amazing Apprenticeships, a leading organisation in the education sector, working with schools, colleges and businesses of all sizes to tackle misconceptions and promote the benefits of apprenticeships.
Bucking a family tradition of attending university, Anna leapt into the world of work with a temp job as a college receptionist, before rising through the ranks to take charge of employer-facing work – including apprenticeships, unemployment support and more.
Moving into a role funded by the Learning and Skills Council (LSC), Anna worked with training providers, employers and schools to talk about the power of apprenticeships. She adds, “The LSC closed, but I wanted to continue working with young people and employers, and continue to raise awareness of apprenticeships, providing the information they needed.”
After winning a contract with the Department of Education to create a national model of the work she was doing, Amazing Apprenticeships was born. Eight years later, it’s grown beyond all recognition.
Anna explains, “We work with close to 5,000 schools and colleges around England, providing information and resources around apprenticeships and technical education, free of charge. We also work with employers of all sizes to understand the benefits of apprenticeships – how they work, and how they can get started.”
Amazing Apprenticeships tackles how employers can diversify their apprenticeships programme, and a key goal is to deliver greater social impact, creating opportunities for disadvantaged groups. She continues, “We’re a small business, so I’ve also got a keen eye on how we can help other small businesses, and what we can do to demystify apprenticeships.”
When starting out, Anna noticed misconceptions around apprenticeships: “Young people didn’t know what the benefits were, or how apprenticeships worked. They were always spoken about as a last resort, rather than a first choice.”
But times have changed. She elaborates, “There have been huge apprenticeship funding and curriculum reforms. The introduction of apprenticeship standards means they are far more rigorous and as a result, the quality has really improved.”
And the range of apprenticeships has improved too. In fact, there are now more than 600 different apprenticeship standards covering job roles from animal trainer to seafarer.
However, challenges remain. Like every business in the country, Amazing Apprenticeships is dealing with uncertainty – how will a potential recession impact opportunities: “We will continue to build awareness among candidates, schools and employers that apprenticeships are real jobs, and could even help spur economic recovery.”
Helping small businesses
So what are the positives of apprenticeships for small businesses? According to Anna, it’s a fantastic opportunity to bring in new talent that benefits the business in unexpected ways:
“We know apprenticeships can feel like a big investment, both financially and in the time it takes to train someone. But the more you put in, the more you get out. Apprentices can be moulded to develop the skills that your business needs, and because of their fresh perspective they can bring in new ideas and solutions.
“It can also be incredible for team morale – when a whole organisation is shaping and developing an apprentice, their success is even more rewarding for the people in a business.”
Accounting for success
A long-term user of Xero, Anna tells us the platform was recommended by her accountant at Keelings & Jones Hunt. She continues:
“We’ve worked with them for 10 years, and they’ve always been a really useful sounding board and supported us as we grew. When they shared a demo of Xero, we knew straight away it was the software for us. It helped us move away from the manual system we first implemented for payments and invoices, and saves us a lot of time.”
What lies ahead
As for the immediate future for Amazing Apprenticeships, Anna and the team are planning a live version of the Genie Programme, which offers webinars and other learning tools to help individuals from organisations understand complex social mobility, equality, diversity and inclusion issues. This will be its first live event, taking place in February in the incredible Foundling Museum in London.
Anna tells us: “We know not everyone can commit to 12 months of learning, so this event will offer a day of workshops and panel discussions to help employers tackle sensitive topics that many shy away from, and inspire them to achieve greater social impact.”
As for further down the line, Anna intends to bring more apprentices into her own business. “We’re recruiting over the coming months, and will lead by example,” she explains.
Finally, the team will continue creating resources, such as this ‘How to recruit your first apprentice’ guide for employers, to help businesses recruit and embrace apprenticeships.
Anna concludes: “So many businesses still don’t know how to get started, but we can change that, and show how fantastic apprenticeships can be.”