It’s time we start learning from our apprentices say the heads of L&D at Argos, Barclays and BT.

If you’ve been anywhere near the business press (or this blog) you’ll already know that it’s National Apprenticeship Week – and you’ll hopefully know some of the benefits apprenticeships bring. How they can plug skills gaps, boost business growth and should, in time, play a critical part in reducing youth unemployment.

But at the annual Voice of Apprenticeships Conference held yesterday, another fascinating and lesser-known benefit came to light – what apprentices teach us about digital capability.

Enhancing your digital capability 

Held at the London Film Museum in Waterloo, the two-day conference was an opportunity for interested employers to meet apprenticeship providers and hear from those experienced at taking on apprentices.

Among the professionals flying the flag high for apprentices, was national L&D manager at Argos Janet Woods, head of employability and early career programmes at Barclays Mike Thompson, and BT’s head of accredited learning Damian Brown.

While all three delivered fascinating case studies on how apprenticeships have moulded their recruitment strategy, perhaps most significant was their insight in to how a younger, digital-savvy apprentice workforce can enhance a business’ digital capability.

Argos’ Jane Woods described the key function apprentices are playing in the major restructuring of the retailer’s business model. For Jane it’s simple: only with the help of their tech-savvy apprentices can Argos dramatically change its proposition – and its young people “leading that change.”

Finding a flight path for the internet generation

Jane’s sentiments were compounded by Mike Thompson from Barclays. Despite introducing apprenticeships to the bank just one year ago, Mike revealed their plans to roll out a flock of “Digital Eagles” – apprentices who will advise the bank’s SME customers on how to run their business operations better in our digital age. Who better to pull Britain’s hundred of thousands of businesses into the modern age than the internet generation?

And for BT’s Damian Brown, for whom business begins and ends with digital technology, the message was succinct – and powerful: “apprentices are the lifeblood of our workforce,” he said.

So perhaps it’s time we stop looking at what we can teach apprentices, but look also at what they can teach us?

Written by Rebecca Hobson, content editor, plotr

Rebecca Hobson, content editor, plotr is an inspirational careers platform for under 24s. Its mission is to inform and educate every young person about the world of work – and bridge the gap between education and employment.

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