Major South West employer highlights attitudes to apprenticeships in new poll

By Anita Jaynes on 16 March, 2016

A survey of 2,000 parents of under 18-year-olds commissioned by Nationwide Building Society for National Apprenticeship Week (March 14-20) reveals interesting information about parents’ attitudes to their children’s career choices.

The poll shows that 56% of parents living in the South West region would rather their children go to university than undertake any other career path with just under 30% stating that they would prefer their children to become apprentices.

More than 70% of parents in the South West said the £3.30 per hour apprentice minimum wage was too low. The study also found that 86% of parents in the South West said that student debt was a concern when it came to university with only 47% of parents polled stating that they felt the debt would be worth it.

Nationwide Building Society which employs more than 7,000 people in its Swindon HQ and has branches across the UK, is using National Apprentice Week to highlight the importance of apprentices and the need to pay them a fair wage. At Nationwide all apprentices are paid at least £8.25 per hour (£15,015 per year) which is Living Wage. The Society also offers different levels of apprenticeships including an ‘Advanced’ or ‘Higher’ apprenticeship which gives them the option of studying for a qualification to A Level or degree level respectively.

Nationwide’s HR director Ann Brown said: “We understand that for younger people parents play an important part in their career choices. University is undoubtedly a great option for lots of people but it’s not the only option and it doesn’t suit everyone.

“At Nationwide you can study to degree level, be paid at least the Living Wage while doing so and have a permanent job from the outset.

“It’s time to start challenging the misconception that becoming an apprentice is a poorly paid option with limited career development opportunities. At Nationwide our apprentices are valued members of the workforce and they make a real difference to the business.”

On Tuesday March 15 the Society held a special evening at its Swindon HQ so young people interested in finding out more about Nationwide’s Apprenticeship Scheme and their parents could find out more.

Jack Scott, 19, who works at Nationwide’s Swindon HQ, chose to become an apprentice at Nationwide despite being accepted to study business studies at university last year. He decided to opt for the apprenticeship scheme after a useful work experience stint at Nationwide’s HQ in Swindon and some time out travelling which allowed him to make this life-changing choice.

“I chose Nationwide because I liked it here and I want a career in financial services. There’s a great culture at Nationwide and that was clear from the moment I started my work experience placement,” he said.

“The way I look at it I’m in a win win situation – I’m studying to become a chartered accountant with CIMA which Nationwide is funding and I’m also earning a wage while gaining great experience.

“The only thing I think I could miss out on I suppose is the social side of university but I’ve made some great friends here with the other apprentices and colleagues so I’m not too concerned.”

Jack is a Higher Apprentice which is a 3 to 5 year programme that enables him to pursue an externally recognised qualification to degree level.

“Some people think I should have gone to university but when I list all the benefits  of becoming a Nationwide apprentice they soon change their mind. I’ve worked out that if I’d gone to university I’d come out in £50,000 debt – that’s something I don’t have to worry about now. My mum was supportive of my decision but my dad thought I’d go to university – once I told him about Nationwide though he soon came around!

“The fact they pay the Living Wage (£8.25 per hour) is significant – lots of employers don’t and I think the minimum wage of £3.30 is far too low and it sends the wrong message. I have a role and responsibilities and I should be paid a wage that reflects this – it’s good that Nationwide recognises this.

“My advice to people who are making those difficult career choices right now would be to avoid following the crowd – what’s right for other people may not be right for you.”