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As part of National Apprenticeship Week, we spoke to James O’Donnell of LDN Group, who helps to find exceptional talent for businesses via apprenticeships. Here's what he had to say.

Why are apprenticeships for the future?

Apprenticeships are all about listening to employers in order to deliver relevant qualifications that gives a young person the opportunity to develop their skills and experience in a real job.

Through apprenticeships you can hire diverse, talented, loyal and enthusiastic employees looking to support your business while growing and developing with you. Millennials are looking for businesses that invest in them as much as they invest in the business — what better way to do that than through apprenticeships?

Why should you choose an apprenticeship over a university degree, particularly in tech?

This is a difficult question.

On the one hand, with a degree you get three years working towards theory, having a great time and at the end of it you can say you have a degree, but all the debt. Graduates struggle as well as any other young person in finding work and employers still must invest in their skills to make them commercially viable employees.

On the other hand, you have apprenticeships where businesses are investing in a young person’s future by offering them experience and qualifications at the same time.

Apprentices have a lot more commercial experience actually doing the role that they want to do, such as developing databases, building websites, creating social media marketing campaigns, fixing computers and updating networks. With a degree you have all the theory but without the experience.

This might sound an odd thing to say, but if you want an easy three years, go to university. If you are real doer, someone who is energetic and motivated then I would try and get into an apprenticeship.

How difficult is it to get a job via an apprenticeship vs. going to uni?

78% of the young people that complete Apprenticeships through the LDN Group programmes Tech City Stars and Future LDN are offered permanent roles after just 12 months of study. Compare this to the most up-to-date figures for university graduates from 2014/15 of 74.9% in work of some kind* after three years of study and thousands in debt.

This is testament to our team of Learning & Development Specialists. They deliver our programmes throughout the apprenticeship through a combination of workplace visits and classes. Their role is essential in developing strong bonds with managers and apprentices to keep their training relevant, commercial and setting them up for their future careers.

We are all about long-term development of the apprentice and the employer and take special attention throughout the pre-employment matching process. We encourage all employers work trial applicants rather than simply interview. This ensures that managers and candidates alike have a proper expectation of what the next year of their lives are going to be like from a commercial and cultural perspective.

How have you seen the tech industry change over the last five years?

It’s obvious that the tech industry has gone through massive change in the last five years. The question with software and tech has changed from “Can we build this?” to “Should we build this?”

And this is really important for companies when they look at their staff. Do they have a diverse and talented pool who can really understand what their customers want?

Almost all businesses I speak to are struggling to recruit and find staff with the skills that they need.

And yet at the same time in London there are over 400,000 young people aged 16-24 that are not in education and unemployed.

Think about that. You could hire one of these young people, start investing in them and get them trained up through an apprenticeship, and in next to no time they are going to become a viable member of staff.

They will help you start coming up with new ideas and solutions that are only going to benefit your company. Because you’ve invested in them and because you’ve trained and developed them they are going to be loyal to you and dedicated to your business.

Those companies that are investing in apprenticeships now — as well as getting great members of staff — will actually start reaping the benefits of their investment for years to come.

What’s the number one tip you’d give to people wanting to get into tech apprenticeships?

If you want to be a tech apprentice my advice is simple: start taking action.

Employers want people that are passionate. If you want to get into Social Media Marketing or become a Software Developer then it’s so easy now to jump on YouTube or Codecademy and just do it! If you want to go into IT Support or networking find a charity, school or even just friends and family and start helping them. When you get stuck, Google it!

The work that you do doesn’t have to be fantastic, but at least it shows that you have the interest and the motivation to go far. The best apprentices that we have throw themselves at the subject matter and just keep trying, and trying, and trying.

And finally, what’s the best thing about your job?

My team. Since I have been in my role we have recruited four apprentices and every day seeing them asking questions, growing and developing and taking on new responsibilities is massively motivating for me.

And now I’m starting to see them coach and mentor other apprentices in the business and give really valuable advice to applicants that are looking to find work through the LDN Group. This demonstrates to me that apprenticeships work; I have seen it with my own eyes.

Thanks, James! Follow @JODonnellCoach on Twitter where he shares his top advice, stories of inspiring candidates and all things London apprenticeships related.

Check out <a href="" target="blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"> if you’re interested in hiring or becoming an apprentice._

*Source: <a href="" target="blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">

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