The PR apprenticeship scheme

I was interested to attend the launch of the PR apprenticeship scheme last night. Well I say launch, it’s more like the launch of a listening exercise, so that the scheme can be designed to incorporate what employers want from PR apprenticeships. The full programme is due to begin in March. For more details about how PR employers can get involved, the PR apprenticeships website is an excellent place to start. If this is the first you’ve heard about the programme, I wrote a blog about it when the scheme was announced. To  examine why an apprenticeship scheme in PR is, or is not a good idea, could be the subject of a thesis. So in the interests of time and clarity, here are a few thoughts/observations: 1.    PR needs this to work. The skill requirements of the profession are now so diverse that it makes little sense to limit the recruiting population to graduates only. 2.    It’s arguable whether the skills learnt during university couldn’t be just as effectively learnt during an apprenticeship scheme. 3.    No one is saying that degrees (including PR degrees) are a bad thing, it’s just that it makes sense that a PR apprenticeship scheme can work equally well. But I think the end ideal is a just a better mix of PR professionals. 4.    Francis Ingham, in his opening statement, said that the 2011 PRCA Census results suggested that 89 per cent of PR professionals had a degree. 5.    The fact that in 12 months’ time, graduates are likely to come out of university with circa £50K of debt (unless their parents have funded their university education) means that the need is there for an alternative. 6.    The government is ploughing billions of pounds into a nationwide apprenticeship scheme. You may have seen some of the coverage for national apprenticeship week. 7.    My understanding is that as an employer you will need to pay an apprentice something like £2.60 per hour, full time. This compares to the minimum wage of £6.08 for workers aged 21 or over. Employers can decide to pay more than the £2.60 per hour and it strikes me that in most of the country, especially London, they will need to, because otherwise, apprentices will not be able to afford living expenses. 8.    The PRCA, CFA, Edexcel and Pearson will provide a support network, a training syllabus, and the training for the apprenticeships scheme. This is all government funded. 9.    One of the keys to the process is identifying young people who want to work in PR and possess the necessary attributes to enable them to to do so. Apparently this is an area where Pearson has a track record of success. 10.    In markets like IT, over 5,000 young people take part in an apprenticeship scheme and over 90 per cent of these young people gain retained employment when the apprentice scheme has been completed. 11.    The PR apprenticeship is expected to take about 12 months to complete. 12.    Part of the trick is that that Pearson matches qualified apprentices with new jobs as they move up the career ladder. As I say, we are currently in the “finding out what employers need from PR apprentices stage", so it makes sense for PR employers out there to get in touch. As far as I can see, as a potential employer, it’s a no brainer. From a cynical perspective the scheme gives you access to cheap labour (and the support of what I imagine will be an excellent training scheme for the employee.) From a future of PR perspective, the PR apprenticeship scheme is an opportunity for PR agencies and in-house PR teams to open up the comms sector to segments of society who do not get the opportunity to go to university. Thereby increasing the diversity and inclusiveness of PR and ensuring a greater breadth of skills within the sector.