This article looks at a new style of apprenticeship that may just be suitable for you.
Flexi-job apprenticeships are being introduced in England. As with all apprenticeships, they offer structured training in the workplace combined with off-the-job learning.
The apprenticeships are designed by sector organisations and key employers, so they provide relevant and up-to-date training for your chosen career. You spend about 20% of your time participating in off-the-job learning at a college, training centre or university. You are paid and are treated like any other employee.
So what’s different? Read on …
Why are flexi-job apprenticeships being introduced?
Traditionally, if you enrol on an apprenticeship, you undertake your training with one employer for at least 12 months. For various reasons, apprenticeships in certain occupations including those in the creative, construction, engineering and digital industries, have been hard to come by.
Not everybody works full time with the same employer over a long period of time. These days, in many sectors, short-term and other non-standard contracts are common.
People are employed to work on a particular project or contract and, once this ends, they find another project or contract often with a different employer. This makes it difficult for individual employers to commit to offering apprenticeships, which last at least a year – sometimes a lot longer. Flexi-job apprenticeships have been designed to address this problem by allowing apprentices to work on a series of short contracts.
By providing a route that reflects modern employment models, it’s hoped that flexi-job apprenticeships will not only provide new opportunities for apprentices, but they will address skill shortages (prevalent in certain sectors and regions of the country), create a skilled workforce and help sectors grow.
In competitive areas, such as certain creative careers, people often rely on having a network of contacts who can provide them with training opportunities. Flexi-job apprenticeships should make training for these careers more accessible to people from under-represented groups.
How flexi-job apprenticeships work
Prior to introducing flexi-job apprenticeships, the Department for Education conducted a flexi-job apprenticeship consultation with training providers, employers and sector bodies.
Flexi-job apprenticeships will work in two ways.
- You can register with a flexi-job apprenticeship agency. The agency will recruit and employ you directly and will arrange placements with host organisations.
Agencies have to be approved to go on the Register of Flexi-Job Apprenticeship Agencies and new agencies will be added to this over time. Agencies must meet a range of criteria so that they provide a high-quality experience for apprentices. They are responsible for induction, initial training, pastoral care, and coordinating placements and off-the-job training.
Placements last at least three months each, up to the minimum duration of the apprenticeship standard. So, for example, if you did a level 4 flexi-job apprenticeship for software developers, you could have up to eight different employers over the two years of the programme.
- Another type of flexible apprenticeship is being piloted. Known as a ‘portable flexi-job apprenticeships’, with the support of your training provider, you take control of your apprenticeship by finding your own placements with different employers.
Once again, these placements have to last at least three months and you would move from one contract to another, perhaps with a break in between if necessary (although this wouldn’t count towards the duration of the apprenticeship).
Between each placement your training provider will conduct progress reviews and update your training plan with you. The pilot is currently running for 23 standards in the creative, digital and construction sectors.
Apart from gaining experience and training with a range of organisations, all other elements of the apprenticeship are the same.
The first flexi-job apprentices started their training just a few months ago. To give you an idea of what’s available, here are some examples of careers where it may be possible to train in this way:
- junior content producer
- software developer
- live events technician
- photographic assistant
- construction site supervisor
- creative venue technician
- rail engineering technician
- smart home technician
Examples of how flexi-job apprenticeships are working through agencies
The BBC has launched the BBC Apprenticeship Hub based in Birmingham. Ten flexi-job apprentices have already started their training and are working with local creative businesses in the areas of broadcast production, content creation and digital marketing. The BBC aims to place 50 apprentices with their partner businesses in the first year of running the Hub.
NHS North of England Commissioning Support (NECS) is coordinating a flexi-job apprenticeship scheme for apprentices employed in health and care in North East and North Cumbria. Apprentices rotate between different health and care organisations, such as GP practices, where there isn’t the infrastructure or capacity to employ apprentices directly.
As one the biggest specialist recruitment organisations in the infrastructure sector (covering rail and construction), McGinley is offering flexi-job apprenticeships giving contractors the flexibility to meet apprenticeship targets on short-term projects. They have committed to train 120-150 apprentices between May 2022 and April 2023.
Working with partners such as Prime Video, Sky and Lime Pictures, ScreenSkills is recruiting apprentices to work in the UK’s booming film and TV industries in shortage roles, such as production assistant, production coordinator and production manager.
TrAC is working with contractors on a range of construction and built environment projects to provide placements for flexi-job apprentices.
What happens after a flexi-job apprenticeship?
Once you have fulfilled all the apprenticeship criteria and have completed the minimum duration of the programme, there’s no obligation for the flexi-job apprenticeship agency or training provider to find you work. However, the agency will help you think about your next steps and provide you with some training on finding contracts. You should have lots of skills to offer employers!
Some things to think about
- Flexi-job apprenticeships are only available for training in certain occupations and sectors where short-term contracts are the norm or where employers cannot commit to longer-term training for other reasons.
- As flexi-job apprenticeships are new, at this stage it’s difficult to predict how enthusiastic employers will be about offering short-term apprenticeship contracts.
- Limited opportunities are currently available, although flexi-job apprenticeships could be expanded in the future. There’s likely to be a lot of competition for available places, so make sure you put effort into your application.
- Will a flexi-job apprenticeship suit you? How will you feel about working on short contracts? Each time you start a new one you’ll have to get used to a whole new organisation and team of people. If you find this prospect particularly daunting and if that is the mode of employment in the area of work that interests you, perhaps you should rethink your career choice.
- On the plus side, just think of all the different experiences you will have compared with training in just one organisation. You could end up working on a wide range of projects or contracts, be based with big and small employers, get involved in all sorts of tasks and experience a range of employment settings. All the while you will build on your learning and develop confidence.
Remember that flexi-job apprenticeships are currently only available in England. Depending on where you live, you can find information on apprenticeships in general and search for opportunities through:
- the Government’s Apprenticeships site in England
- Careers Wales
- Apprenticeships.Scot from Skills Development Scotland
- the Apprenticeships site for Northern Ireland
If you decide that a flexi-job apprenticeship – or indeed any apprenticeship – might be a good option for you, make sure you do your research and understand your responsibilities before you apply.
It’s exciting to know that new opportunities for apprentices are being developed. Apprenticeships will no longer follow a one size fits all approach!
Debbie Steel, August 2022
With a background working with apprentices and teaching in further education, Debbie was employed as an in-house careers author before establishing herself as a freelancer. As well as co-authoring numerous careers books, Debbie has produced resources and web content for a range of high-profile clients. She is an enthusiastic proponent of impartial and reliable careers information.