Posted by Conor ● 29 July 2019

5 Trends from the RateMyApprenticeship Awards Panel

On Thursday 18th July at etc.venues’ County Hall, only a stone’s throw away from the London Eye, RateMyApprenticeship co-founder Oliver Sidwell kicked off the fifth annual RateMyApprenticeship Awards. 

The Awards celebrate the outstanding achievements of apprentices, schools and colleges, employers and training providers in apprenticeships. All stakeholders were in attendance. 

After an introduction from Ollie, he invited former Apprentice winner, Tim Campbell MBE to the stage to compere the Awards for a second year running. 

Attendees were treated to a grade A buffet and insightful presentations from Ollie and Jamala Osman (winner of Great Britain’s Young Citizen Award for 2018 and TEDx Speaker), before Tim hosted a panel discussing various topics in the apprenticeship market. 

Here are the 5 key trends from our magnificent panel…

The Panel

Host: Tim Campbell

Jo Bishop, Head of Careers, City and Islington Sixth Form College 

Francisco Ferreira, Year 13 student, City and Islington Sixth Form College

Kevin Coupland, Head of Apprenticeship School, BPP

Naomi Blackbourn, Recruitment Manager, BBC

Jordan Debruyne, Assistant Manager Apprentice, Greene King

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#1 How employers can build partnerships with schools

Schools and colleges now have little choice but to pursue closer relationships with employers. The Gatsby Benchmarks recommend that schools and colleges include ‘meaningful encounters with employers’ as part of their careers provision. 

More and more employers are also looking to build partnerships with schools, particularly if they’re hiring apprentices in a local area. But where to begin? And how? 

Panelist Jo Bishop explained how a close working partnership had been established between Lloyds Banking Group and City and Islington College. She said the key was for employers to find the right contacts within an institution. 

Jo went on, telling all employers in the room to specifically look for the Careers Lead in a school. As part of the government’s careers strategy, all schools and colleges must have contact information for their Careers Lead available on their website. 

The panel also added that, early on in a partnership, employers should find out what the school or college’s objectives are. What do they want from this partnership? What do the students want? Only once these objectives have been explored can a true partnership, that adds value to both sides, start to take shape.

#2  Preparing students for assessment

Both young people on the panel discussed the use of video interviews as part of the application process for apprenticeships. Jordan, a Greene King apprentice, had completed a video interview when he applied for his role, as had Francisco in a recent application. 

Jordan and Francisco admitted they were both a bit intimidated by the video interview. Francisco pointed out that he was fortunate that his college helped him prepare. But could employers do more? 

Perhaps employers could include information about their application processes on their website. Or, even better, include workshops about preparing for video interviews and assessment centres during school visits. 

Employers can’t just rely on schools and colleges or careers advisers to provide better education around modern application and assessment practices. Working together with all stakeholders is the path to ensuring that young people have the tools to apply for an apprenticeship. 

#3  Educating line managers

Apprentices split their time between being at work, and working towards their development and qualifications with a training provider. It’s an 80:20 split, with apprentices spending the majority of the apprenticeship in the workplace. 

Kevin Coupland, Head of Apprenticeships at the training provider BPP spoke about encountering confusion about the 20% of development time. 

He explained that some line managers BPP have worked with were unaware and even wary of the time apprentices need to take away from work. 

The solution to this, Kevin continued, was simple. Line managers need to be better educated about how apprenticeships work. Apprentices are not like regular employees, and the 20% development time is crucial for their progression.

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#4  On AI in student recruitment

How will AI effect student recruitment? This was a question that came from the audience. And it’s not surprising - everybody’s talking about AI these days. 

Naomi Blackbourn from the BBC was quick to answer, and explained that her team use gamification during the assessment stage of their apprenticeship recruitment. 

However, she added that she was unsure about the use of AI in school and college and leaver recruitment overall. Naomi explained how she fundamentally believed that attitude and passion were crucial to the selection process - can AI measure passion? 

Maybe, maybe not. It’s why Naomi and her team read through all of the 30,000 applications the BBC receive from school and college leavers last year. Obviously this is not realistic for most companies, so while there may be areas in which AI can support the recruitment process, the human interaction element can’t be compromised. 

#5 Removing the stigmas around apprenticeships

The stigma around apprenticeships still exists. A contributor from the audience explained how degree apprentices in their company often removed the word ‘apprentice’ from their job title - so not be seen as less able than graduate recruits. 

How can we shift this mentality? 

Kevin Coupland thought the key was in business engagement. He said employers are working hard to challenge the stigma surrounding apprenticeships  - but still need to educate all stakeholders across a company about the benefits that apprentices bring.  

Naomi commented that she hadn’t experienced the stigma at the BBC. But she added that businesses should take ownership of their apprenticeship programme, and not leave it to apprentices to justify their existence to other employees. 


It truly was a celebration of early talent, and we’re already looking forward to next year’s event. 

To see all of this year’s winners and finalists, visit the RateMyApprenticeship Awards website. 

Topics: Industry Insights, School & College Leaver

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