Apprenticeships are not just for school leavers, they can offer us all alternative routes to change career, but are often talked about as a solution to attracting new talent and looked over as a potential route to a new career without having to leave the industry.
When you imagine an apprentice, I bet that the first thing that comes to mind is a teenage school-leaver looking for an alternative to university. Although apprenticeships are a brilliant way for young people to earn and learn, it may surprise you that less than a quarter of UK apprenticeship starters in 2022/23 were under 19.
Time for a change
Instead, 48% of new apprentices were over 25, looking for a workplace qualification nearly a decade or more after leaving school.
Two years ago, that was me. After 13 years working in the finance team at Greene King, I decided that it was time for a change, and looked into pursuing a career in brewing. However, with two young children at home, leaving the workplace, and my income, for further education wasn’t an option.
Being on site at Greene King’s brewery in Bury St Edmunds, I’d enjoyed daily beer tastings, which are open to all team members. Now that’s not enough to qualify me as a brewer, but it helped to improve my knowledge and ignited an interest in a possible career in brewing.
When applications for Greene King’s brewing apprenticeship next opened, I jumped at the opportunity to apply. The qualification was the first brewing apprenticeship developed in the UK when it launched in 2018. With no experience or qualifications required, it provides a way for people of all ages to get into the industry.
Retraining and growing
The change has been extraordinary. I’ve swapped Outlook for Abbot Ale and feel rejuvenated in my career. The hands-on element of brewing is something I had missed in my previous role, even if I am still required to do lots of calculations to make sure the beer comes out right!
The apprenticeship has helped me not just stay in the industry, but gain a qualification. With hospitality businesses offering such a variety of roles, there are opportunities in finance, property and marketing, as well as serving customers front of house or from the kitchen. The industry should lean into this variety as a strength and promote apprenticeships as a pathway to move throughout their businesses.
Greene King has realised the benefits that apprenticeships can bring and invested heavily in its different programmes. In total, it has supported over 17,000 apprentices since launching its scheme in 2011 and now offers 37 different apprenticeships across the company’s divisions.
If we are to solve the high number of vacancies facing the industry, I urge other companies to do the same. Apprenticeships will not just produce the workforce of tomorrow, they are crucial in retraining and growing the workforce of today.