Dallaglio RugbyWorks is an intensive, long-term skills development programme based on rugby, through which we aim to get teenagers outside of mainstream education into sustained education, employment or training.

During National Apprenticeship Week, our Employability Manager details what apprenticeships mean for young people.

Tom Painter, our Employability Manager, discusses how apprenticeships are becoming a more popular route for young people and why we need to offer a diverse range of pathways for them to succeed.

"I was recently given the analogy of the lone dancer in a crowd. Over some albeit awkward time, the suspicion of onlookers gives way to curiosity and he is joined by a second, then a third and so on - trailblazer becomes trendsetter. In this same way, we have reached an important tipping point with apprenticeships.

"During National Apprenticeship Week 2020, we welcome the news that for the first time more young people would consider a vocational post-16 route than not.

"Apprentices are now graduating with glowing reviews from the 2016 frameworks and a steadily increasing number are determined to follow. This year 59% of young people surveyed by construction firm, Redrow, believe there is now ‘no stigma’ associated with the vocational option.

"For the young people on our RugbyWorks programme, it is a particularly viable route to success. Exclusion will likely slash their chance of getting five GCSE passes at 9 – 4 from a national average of 52% to just over 1%. Judged solely on their CV, many fall automatically to the bottom of the pile, or more truthfully don’t make it that far.  Time and again though, our young people demonstrate excellent employability skills to our Career Taster Day hosts.

"Just last week, I saw this at KPMG in Birmingham. One student arrived, as many do, shy and uncomfortable in alien surroundings. As the day progressed however and with the patient, enthusiastic support of KPMG volunteers, he built his way gradually into the experience.

"Our final task of the day was to plan and present a new shoe company. Applying what he had learned, Alex swung into action and sought ways to undercut our rivals using market data as he had learned. When the time came, he opted to stand in front of the group and present our work. It’s fair to say none of us expected it, given first impressions just a few hours earlier.

"But that’s exactly the point: Alex had walked into a completely different, dynamic and exciting learning environment that morning. Nor was it surprising when his teachers noted this shift in his approach with glee, we all shared in it. Alex is just one example; so often when we take our students out of the classroom and into a vocational learning environment they flourish.

"The apprenticeship system is far from perfect. That same Redrow report cites a lack of available information in schools, parental understanding and continued scepticism in business as the key obstacles to young people moving into apprenticeships. We must support not deter in our own advice, teaching and recruitment strategies.

"Opportunities somehow remain unacceptably sparse for young people like Alex and plentiful for the relatively well-educated employees of levy-paying organisations. So long as they do exist though, there is more we can do.

"On National Apprenticeship Week we should take time to acknowledge that the collective young mind of this country is keen and open to a new approach – the labour market surely is. The onus now falls on us as parents, educators, support workers and employers to follow suit; it is their education not ours.

"There are thousands of boys and girls like Alex, to whom Traineeships and Apprenticeships offer a new lease of life. What if they all viewed their education beyond 16 through Alex’s afternoon, not morning eyes? That’s a vision we should all be rooting for and one that drives me and my team daily.

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