PR apprenticeships for those that do not want to go to university seems like an ideal opportunity, a fantastic initiative, on the surface that is above criticism or real examination.
Surely the agency gets a hungry new member of staff on an attractive wage for the agency of £2.65, approximately £5165 annual salary for a 37.5 hour week? Additionally, there are grants available such as the AGE grant of £1,500 and New Economy Grant for an additional £1,000.
The programme runs for 12 to 18 months, a creditable amount of time. All apprentices will be over 16, although the majority will be between 19 and 24.
Every apprentice will have 2 weeks of full time training at the start of the programme, followed by 12 to 18 months of day release training. The Higher Apprenticeship in Public Relations is a Level 4 programme, equivalent to first year degree level.
All apprentices and their employers will be fully supported in the workplace by mentors – a point that deserves praise.
In this age where university education is prohibitively expensive for many, where some do not want to go onto higher education and jobs are scarce for popular careers, this seems like a brilliant and timely scheme, especially in an era of swingeing cuts.
So why not full hearted praise?
There are a few reasons that should be noted:
Firstly, someone entering the world of business as young as 16 might not be a boon to a PR agency. Have they developed the intellectual capacity as well as the personal skills to a standard that shows promise?
Maybe not, but this is what an apprenticeship is all about isn’t it, to develop the raw material?
Yes, but someone going into B2B PR, for instance, without any experience outside GCSEs or A levels and a classroom is going to find it difficult and perhaps are not going to give much back within 18 months.
Experience and life skills are hard won and can be applied to the PR world, but rarely in those so young.
I might add that I receive CVs with spelling errors, poor covering letters and no initiative to follow-up from those with more experience and so you wonder about those at 16, 17, 18, 19 having been taught or learnt simple courtesies, skills and common sense.
While the issue of young people has been highlighted in the media and it is one of concern, there are many people that the PR industry should consider that fall outside the remit of this initiative.
Much potential can be found in people switching careers in their 20s, 30s, 40s – and why not later? Someone that has worked in law or engineering or the life sciences and switches to PR brings a wealth of knowledge that cannot be picked up by someone that has a PR degree.
And what about graduates in PR internships – sometimes a few weeks of work experience – working for little financial reward? They have spent thousands on an education, invested time in their own growth and might be pushed out by such a scheme.
It probably all comes down to life being unfair on this point, and in a recession this is exaggerated.
PR apprenticeships are to be welcomed, it is something very positive at a time when youth unemployment is simply unacceptable.
Yet, there is a worry that there are issues that are somehow being missed in apprenticeships, the PR sector needs to be more open in recruiting, looking at skills, personal characteristics and experience and not the closed outlook it can have.