The Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) deserves a huge round of applause for developing a set of qualifications that can be fitted into an apprenticeship structure.
Marketing Week has some of the details in an article out today, but suffice it to say that there are two levels that school leavers can work toward to earn the title of an executive or manager in one- or two-year chunks of mixing work with study. The standards have been drawn up through working with big-name brands -- meaning that they are industry-led, which is hugely important for anyone who is looking to work hard to get the right skills.
This is worth mentioning because anyone who ever writes about business comes up time and time again across the accusation that further education doesn't always talk to companies to find out what skills are required. For too long, universities and colleges have been sending out graduates to fill roles in industries that have moved on to require different skill sets.
It's important because for those of us who are old enough to have received a free university education, today's annual tuition fees are eye-watering. While the previous cap of three thousand pounds a year seemed a reasonable contribution by students, or more likely their parents, today's nine-thousand-pound upper limit can seem a little high. In fact, The Times Higher Education estimates that getting a degree will cost the average student around GBP40k when living expenses are taken into account. This is an average figure, and those who have paid the top tuition fees can expect the final bill to increase.
So after three years would you rather be earning, or on your way to earning, GBP40k as a salary -- or would you want to be in debt to the tune of GBP40k?
That is what makes apprenticeships so appealing. The politicians have realised it was a huge mistake to go all snobby and encourage children to study for degrees. Not only did it devalue the status of the qualification, because they became two-a-penny, but it encouraged colleges to dream up all kinds of pointless courses. Lots of kids studying for lots of degrees, many of which would have previously been handled at a polytechnic -- which, of course, had rebranded as universities.
That's what makes this such a good time for marketing to be discovering apprenticeships. Employers have realised that having a degree isn't the be-all and end-all -- and that, in fact, some people might be better off learning on the job, getting relevant skills while they work by day and study part-time.
I've covered apprenticeships across many industries and they're a real benefit, particularly in getting people from modest backgrounds into highly skilled jobs that would previously have been considered to be highly academic. I was recently fortunate enough to speak with a handful of young women who were encouraged into engineering and science careers through becoming qualified and gaining practical on-the-job skills rather than classroom teaching. They thought the latter would be way too expensive and too far separated from where the skills would eventually be used.
The more you talk to people involved in apprenticeships, the more you come to see them as a win-win. Employers get bright young things to work with them and get to teach the skills that are required, not those an academic course writer believes are still needed. The bright young things get qualified in the same time as it would take to get a degree but rather than starting from scratch, they're already on their way to building a career.
The good news is the Marketing Academy Foundation is aiming to get ten apprentices in to industry this summer and then try to double that number each year for the next few years.
I have to agree with the sentiment of the article in Marketing Week today. It's hard to think of a move that will do more to encourage diversity in an industry where two in three have a degree and more than nine in ten are white.