Millennials and apprenticeships: Removing stereotypes and making it work for all

By Ron Maxwell - CEO

As an organisation that deals heavily with helping our youth into employment, we’ve become reasonably adept at working with the Millennial generation. As more of the Gen Y cohort enters the workforce, it’s clear that within a short period of time they will become the dominant demographic across all industry sectors.

That’s seen a dramatic change to the way employer’s structure “work.” The Millennial generation is the first true ‘digital native’ group to enter the job market, bringing a fresh approach to the way many roles are completed.

So it was with interest that I read a recent article on the challenges that our younger workers (both the Millennial and the following Generation ‘Z’ demographics) face in entering the workforce today. Some of the challenges I can understand, however, with a skills shortage facing the Australian job market, I certainly feel there’s a need to show the value of apprenticeships to those entering the workforce.

Apprenticeships need to be seen as a viable option

As I’ve said in previous posts, I often feel that apprenticeships are undervalued. Given our looming skills shortage across so many industries, encouraging school leavers to seriously consider apprenticeships needs to be a core priority for both government and private organisations.

The role of apprenticeships is changing, as new industries and job types evolve. With technology changing so rapidly, new careers are emerging that only a few years ago we may never have even considered. Organisations like ours are working hard to evolve our programs to meet this demand, however, the common challenge is that demand for apprentices is far outstripping supply.

What encourages me is the fact that the demand is there. Without apprenticeships I’m of the firm view that youth unemployment would be a far greater challenge for our nation.

Engaging the younger generations 

Like most in the Baby Boomer and Generation X groups, we’ve all heard stories about the Millennial generation being ‘lazy.’ I think that is a stereotype that we need to ignore and challenge. It’s my belief that this generation is simply changing the way we approach work. They’re still hard workers, they just approach work differently to their predecessors.

As I mentioned above, they’re the first true digital natives. Using technology is completely the norm for this generation; rapid technological change is not a challenge, but an opportunity in their eyes. This will provide employers with the opportunity to engage apprentices that are already technology literate, which I see as a massive advantage for forward thinking businesses. Technology is rapidly changing so many industries, being able to adapt is a huge benefit.

The new generations joining the workforce are also far more aware of, and engaged by, the social programs that businesses run. Commonly called ‘Corporate Social Responsibility’, or CSR, it’s important for employers to think about the causes that they support when looking to attract the best talent. That’s no different with apprenticeships.

There are still some barriers we need to remove

In saying that, I’m not going to suggest that all apprenticeship experiences are completely smooth sailing. I’ve seen some examples, such as those raised in the ABC article, that haven’t shone a great light on the sector. However, these are the outliers in terms of the experience, we see far more positive experiences that lead to great careers. Organisations like VERTO have amazing programs designed to support both employers and apprentices through the entire journey.

Making it work

As we invest in helping our school leavers with training that improves their soft skills as well as their ability to learn a trade or skills set, I think the overall opportunity through apprenticeships is one that can be so rewarding.

For our youth, it provides long-term employment opportunities, as the skills shortage provides strong demand for a wide variety of roles. For employers, it gives the opportunity to engage an employee at the beginning of their career and to guide them into becoming a long-term employee.

Making it work for all parties, and adapting to generational differences, is a role that all of us, from employers and apprentices, through to support networks such as ours, need to play.