Undergraduate or Apprentice? Both provide valuable routes to career success

More than 680,000* young people have applied to start university courses this autumn, dwarfing the numbers who will enrol on apprenticeships. But are they all making the right choice? 

While a university education is essential for some professions, the development of higher-level apprenticeships means that they too provide comparable progression opportunities, combined with on-the-job experience, across a vast range of careers and industries.

In comparison to university enrolments, apprenticeship new starters stood at only 288,800** for the period August 2021 to April 2022. Although this number had increased by 14.1% on the previous year the number of young people taking this career path option is lagging behind enrolments for university, but why? 

Four young people who have taken the apprenticeship route with Seetec Outsource explain how it has helped them progress in their careers.  

Niamh Stapleton, 19, from Kent, started a Level 4 (Foundation Degree level) apprenticeship in Communications and Engagement with UK Sport in November. For a keen dancer and sports enthusiast with an A Level in PE, Niamh felt it was the perfect opportunity. 

She explained: “I never considered an apprenticeship, I had tunnel vision about going to university. I think it’s changing, but there’s still a stigma around apprenticeships. Some people think they need a university degree to advance further in life.” 

“I feel I’m ahead of people who are studying PR at university. I understand my theory lessons because they complement what I do and I am able to put theory into practice.” 

She believes schools should do more to highlight the advantages of apprenticeships and the range of options available.

Chloe O’Donnell, 20, from Kettering, agrees. She was considering applying to university for graphic design but was put off by classes taking place online because of the Covid-19 pandemic.  

She too took a gap year, working in a Covid vaccination centre, until a friend highlighted a Level 3 Digital Marketing apprenticeship with the Staff Development team at Kettering General Hospital. 

“It really appealed to me. There was a lot in the job description I didn’t know but I wanted to learn.” This included videoing and video editing, photography, designing posters and social media work. 

“I’d heard about apprenticeships in school but didn’t know there were so many opportunities,” Chloe explained.  “I think it was just expected that after A levels, what everyone does is go to university. 

“Aprenticeships are brilliant, I think they are overlooked because when you leave college, so many people want to go or have to go to university and think it’s a more grown-up choice. But university isn’t for everyone. 

LinardLinard Laith, age 22, from Ealing 

Linard studied for his A Levels at Drayton Manor High School where he was good at maths and science but was unsure about his future career direction. 

“I stumbled across apprenticeships. It got me thinking that I could earn money and get a qualification, there wasn’t so much pressure on me because it’s very flexible and I could change career path if I wanted to. 

“There are so many different apprenticeships, it’s a great opportunity and a great alternative to university, you can still get to degree level if you want to.” 

Linard who joined Catalyst Housing Group as a Level 3 Business Administration apprentice concluded: “Now I’ve completed my apprenticeship and have a permanent role, I also have more of a plan. I want to go into finance and accounting and get a qualification in that, I’ve grown a passion for it since working with Catalyst. It’s opened my eyes about what opportunities I can go into.” 

Samuel Ashby, aged 22, from Hockley, Essex 

Sam was in the sixth form at the Greensward Academy in Hockley when he realised that classroom-based learning wasn’t the way forward for him. 

Fortunately, he was invited, through a friend, to take up a Customer Service apprenticeship at Hockley Airsoft Arena, a shooting range and skirmish experience site, which also has an on-site shop.   

“I hadn’t looked at apprenticeships,” Sam explained. “It’s a different environment. At school, you learn in a classroom with a teacher. With an apprenticeship, you learn within the business, you get one-to-one sessions with your tutor and have the ability to email them, which worked better for me.” 

Sam started his Level 2 apprenticeship and quickly progressed to a Level 3 Business Administration apprenticeship. 

Owner and Director Amanda Hall, who runs the business with her husband Albert, explained: “Sam was our second apprentice, the first being our daughter. My husband and I both see the value of education and the doors it can open for our business growth and personally for the apprentices. Sam has worked so hard and done so well, the transformation from how he was when he joined us to achieving a distinction for his level 3 is incredible. 

“We’re a small family business and we all work closely together. We’ve had two more apprentices and, as we develop and grow as a business, I want to develop them and expand their potential. I want to have people who already know the business moving into supervisor roles. 

John Baumback, Seetec’s Group Chief Executive Officer, who started his career as an apprentice with Seetec 39 years ago and progressed to the helm of the £129 million turnover employee-owned business said: “Apprenticeships offer a fantastic route into a wide range of industries and careers, but we need to do more to make apprenticeships a more attractive option for young people.  

“Perceptions of apprenticeships are changing, especially with the introduction of degree apprenticeships but schools and parents still tend to focus on university. As the country battles with the rising cost of living crisis and skills shortages apprenticeships need to be at the forefront to aid our economic recovery.” 

Seetec Outsource specialise in a range of apprenticeships across the UK including: Aviation and advanced engineering, transport and logistics, professional services, digital and media. 

For more information about apprenticeships, contact Seetec Outsource Seetec Outsource | Apprenticeship Training Provider & Levy Specialist see https://www.gov.uk/become-apprentice 


Photos: Chloe O’Donnell and Linard Laith

*UCAS figures regarding university applications at the end of June 2022: https://www.ucas.com/corporate/news-and-key-documents/news/record-applications-disadvantaged-students-higher-education  

**Apprenticeship statistics Apprenticeships and traineeships, Academic Year 2021/22 – Explore education statistics – GOV.UK (explore-education-statistics.service.gov.uk)  

HESA 2021 student statistics https://www.hesa.ac.uk/news/25-01-2022/he-student-statistics-202021  

Sodexo named in top 100 apprenticeship employers list

The Department for Education has recognised Sodexo as one of the top 100 apprenticeship employers in the UK.

Benchmarked against more than 500 employers in multiple sectors of the economy, Sodexo was ranked 79th on the 2022 list, with the organisation being the highest placed facilities management provider.

Sodexo has long been committed to creating employment opportunities and enabling colleagues to thrive through apprenticeships. The company offers a wide variety of apprenticeships, with almost 80 available in areas such as IT and business administration, facilities management, hospitality and catering, healthcare and prison custody, from Level 2 (GCSE equivalent) to Level 7 (degree level) schemes.

The Top 100 Apprenticeship Employers helps future apprentices, parents, and careers advisers to identify good apprenticeship opportunities at the country’s leading employers. First launched in 2020, the annual employer rankings are developed by the Department of Education, in partnership with High Fliers Research, which independently assesses and ranks the nation’s top employers.

Employers are assessed on the number of apprentices they currently employ, the number of new apprenticeships they have created over the past 12 months, the diversity of these new apprentices, and the progression of their apprentices onto further apprenticeships and employment.

Sue Davison, Head of Apprenticeships and Early Careers at Sodexo UK & Ireland, said: “We are absolutely delighted to be named as one of the top 100 employers for our apprenticeship programme. Developing talent is something we take pride in, and we want to ensure we have a strong pipeline of employees throughout our organisation who can kickstart their careers here and go on to achieve great things at Sodexo.”

Recognising the nation’s top apprenticeship employers in 2022 – Read more

National Apprenticeship Week: Removing Barriers to Apprenticeships (RBA) Programme

Join GMCA for a special session during National Apprenticeship Week to celebrate and share the results of the Removing Barriers to Apprenticeships (RBA) Programme!

This programme is a collection of test and learn projects that received funding from GMCA to develop initiatives supporting disadvantaged and under-represented groups to access apprenticeships and pre-apprenticeship activity. The projects tackled barriers related to gender, ethnicity, personal circumstance (lone parents), learning disabilities, age, and distance from the labour market, and to date have engaged more than 100 learners.

Join us as we share our findings from the RBA programme and give practical insights into making apprenticeship more accessible, and more successful, for people from disadvantaged or underrepresented backgrounds. The presentation will be followed by a Q&A.


This event will be of interest to industry professionals, including training providers, intermediary groups, and employers with Diversity & Inclusion / social value goals – please do share with anyone you may be interested!

Employers’ voice is vital in changing apprenticeships to meet business needs

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By Nikki Bardsley, Director of Apprenticeships & Skills Operations, Seetec Outsource

The introduction of apprenticeship standards was a major step forward in ensuring apprentices could develop the occupational skills needed to perform their job role effectively. But it was very much the first step towards a new and more collaborative way of working, with training providers listening to employers to understand industry needs and deliver flexible and responsive solutions.  

The Large Goods Vehicle (LGV) driver apprenticeship standard is a great example of how this can work. When it was first delivered in May 2017, the new standard provided a powerful opportunity to address serious concerns within the transport and logistics industry about significant driver shortages and an ageing driver population. 

Drivers obtaining their Category C licence to drive rigid HGVs was a mandated requirement of the standard. For apprentices, the chance to get their licence funded was a huge attraction and we saw a younger age profile among those signing up as well as women joining a traditionally male-dominated industry. Others saw the opportunity for a career change.  

Despite Covid-19 restrictions, Seetec Outsource has seen 57 learners achieving their LGV driver apprenticeship in the past year. 

However, many employers we work with also need their drivers to gain a Cat C+E licence, so they can make the step up to articulated lorries. This has meant additional costs for employers, but drivers are keen to progress as a chance to increase their earnings. 

We decided to approach the Logistic Skills Network and the Trailblazer Group of logistics employers to see how we could address this issue. Our trade connections with organisations such as Logistics Skills Network and the Trailblazer Group of logistics employers enabled us to collectively influence the adjustments the standard needed.   It wasn’t straightforward as it significantly increased the cost of apprenticeship delivery and meant a change of funding band. Not all employers needed their drivers to gain a Cat C+E licence. 

Come 1 September, with approval from IFATE (the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education), we will start delivering the new programme which includes progression to Cat C+E. And a new Urban Delivery Driver apprenticeship will be available from October, for those employers who only need their drivers to gain a Cat C licence. 

It’s a great example of how we can be the voice of employers. Equally, it illustrates how important it is for employers to engage with their training provider. 

In the logistics industry the shortage of drivers means that, once qualified, a driver can move to a new employer offering a higher salary – who hasn’t borne the cost of training the driver. Retention is a real issue. 

By building the company’s vision and values into the apprenticeship, and really supporting and investing in their apprentice to develop new skills and apply them to their job role, the apprentice is far more likely to commit to developing their career within that company. Introducing incremental pay increases for achieving significant milestones during the apprenticeship – and again on completion of the programme – can also support driver retention by reducing the incentive to move to a new employer whose vision and values they may not share, and who may not be as invested in their development.   

When we start working with an employer, we spend a significant amount of time designing a bespoke programme with them to ensure it reflects the ethos of their organisation. We’ve seen really good retention and we believe that’s down to the commitment the individual feels towards the organisation. 

From our experience, if employers don’t engage and commit, the learner quickly senses this and either becomes disengaged themselves or moves to another employer that shows more interest. The commitment needs to be evident and consistent across the business – from their learning and development function to team leaders and senior management. It needs to be a culture of learning.  

We work with employers to get that buy-in from line managers, so they understand how to make the apprenticeship work on the ground. In the past, I don’t think providers engaged enough with employers. We are constantly reviewing and evaluating the quality of what we’re doing, through regular feedback from learners and managers. 

The breadth of apprenticeships available today is incredible They have long developed from being a route into a vocational trade to offering a career pathway to leadership and management.  

To really meet the country’s skills and workforce needs, the key is understanding what employers want and having the flexibility to respond rapidly as their needs change to ensure apprenticeships remain fit for purpose.   

To find out more about the LGV standard and Seetec’s transport and logistics qualifications click: https://www.seetecoutsource.co.uk/programme-sector/transport-and-logistics/ 

Logistics sector urged to invest in skills now to prepare for post-Brexit customs complexity

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Business leaders are urged to act now to ensure they have the skills needed to manage the complex new customs regime which will follow Britain’s exit from the EU single market.

Recognising the enormous pressures facing the logistics sector, skills specialist Seetec Outsource is urging businesses to recruit freight forwarding apprentices to build capacity and start equipping a new generation with the knowledge and skills to face the challenges ahead.

With less than six months until the end of the UK’s Brexit transition period, the Road Haulage Association has warned that an extra 50,000 private-sector customs agents will be needed to process the millions of additional import and export customs declarations.

Almost three quarters of businesses surveyed by the British International Freight Association (BIFA) want the Brexit transition period to be extended, with half saying they don’t have sufficient staff to handle the additional regulatory requirements.

Businesses will now receive £2,000 for each new 16-24 year-old apprentice they recruit, and £1,500 for new apprentices aged 25 and over. The training can be funded through the apprenticeship levy or through government co-investment for SMEs.

Neil Bates, Seetec Outsource Managing Director said: “The businesses that thrive Post Brexit will be those who act now to build back better and start addressing the shortage of trained staff in a sector which is crucial to the UK economy. Young people are bearing the brunt of the economic hit caused by Covid-19, yet they represent the talent that can help businesses to adapt and embrace the changes and opportunities that Brexit will bring.

“There is a wealth of young talent available, and the Government is offering significant incentives to businesses that recruit new apprentices between now and January 2021. There has never been a better time to recruit an International Freight Forwarding apprentice.”

Carl Hobbis, Training and Development Manager from BIFA added: “With the need to add more customs experts to the sector, an apprenticeship in freight forwarding is one solution. Forwarders will continue to play a crucial role in the UK’s international trade in the future, therefore the industry will provide a long-term, exciting career for a young person.

“The government has promised significant investment in the GB-EU border, so now is the time for businesses to invest in new talent and plan their future talent strategy. Employers shouldn’t underestimate the amount of time needed to train someone to become competent in Customs procedures.”

Richard Hird, Group Training Manager from Woodland Group said: “We love to incorporate apprentices    into our team as often as possible. The benefit of hiring an apprentice is that they don’t come to us with preconceived ideas of the Freight Forwarding industry and are eager to learn the ‘Woodland Way’. During the apprenticeship they learn about every different aspect of the role including Imports and Exports via road, sea and air, Customs and customer service skills. This means that by the time they reach the end of the apprenticeship, we have a well-rounded and knowledgeable team member who can fit in to any area of the business.

Seetec Outsource apprentices have won BIFA’s national Apprentice of the Year awards for the past two years.

For more details about the Level 3 International Freight Forwarding Specialist apprenticeship watch: https://youtu.be/ZrCvy8mxglw  or visit https://www.seetecoutsource.co.uk/programme/international-freight-forwarding-specialist/

Contact us on: 0800 3891 999 or  email: employers@seetecoutsource.co.uk.


About Seetec

Seetec is a leading provider of training, skills and rehabilitation services to businesses and government in the UK and Ireland. It is the 9th largest employee-owned company in the UK and the largest employee owned business in the sectors within which it operates.  

The business helps thousands of people every year to take ownership over their future by helping them into work, develop new skills or make more positive choices. Originally founded in 1984, the company has grown by focusing on creating sustainable and lasting change for the people it supports.

The company is Ofsted Grade 2, B-Corp certified and accredited with the gold award for the Investors in People and Health & Wellbeing standard. For more information, visit www.seetec.co.uk

PR& Media Manager Nancy.rogers@seetec.co.uk  call 07779 251 711

Use lockdown and furlough positively for apprentices to accelerate their learning

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Lockdown and furlough present a massive opportunity for anyone undertaking an apprenticeship programme to accelerate their off-the-job learning, according to a leading skills director.

Melanie Nicholson, Seetec’s Executive Director for Excellence, Apprenticeships and Skills, has over 25 years’ experience in the skills arena and urges businesses to support their employees who are undertaking apprenticeship programmes during the coronavirus lockdown.

“This is a great opportunity for employees who are furloughed to engage in learning whilst they are at home, They can effectively develop their theoretical understanding of their job role, sector and business, so that when they do go back to work they will be returning with the new skills and knowledge that they have acquired and can then concentrate on putting these to use by helping to drive the business forward,” Melanie said.

“In addition, working towards their qualification and continuing to learn will help employees to remain engaged and motivated. It also helps to look after people’s mental health during self-isolation, by continuing in learning this enables the training provider to keep in touch with individual employees, providing additional support alongside the support they are receiving from their employer.”

Melanie urges employers and learners to continue their apprenticeship programmes and to avoid disruptive breaks in learning and programme extensions where possible.

She remains optimistic that there will be a positive side to the Covid-19 upheaval. While she recognises the financial pressures facing many businesses and individuals, along with the personal pressures of lockdown and isolation, she believes most sectors and industries will come through this with different, better and more productive ways of thinking, working and learning.

Melanie said: “Before the pandemic, Seetec had started to implement different ways of delivering learning by utilising online and blended learning models for all of our programmes.

“The situation we all found ourselves in a few weeks ago expedited that thinking and planning and we were able to quickly and effectively support our learners remotely using online platforms for remote and virtual learning, along with online learning materials.”

Melanie explained, “Once employers realised their employees wouldn’t be undertaking their learning on their own and still had the same access to their tutors, classes and learning materials, most employers have been very supportive and can see the benefits of their employees remaining in learning whilst furloughed.”

Melanie is passionate about the sector’s role in supporting learners and employers during the lockdown. “Apprentices are our future skilled workers and leaders and we can do more,” she says, “at Seetec, we have the capacity and we’re happy to talk to any learners and employers who want advice or support about how to continue their qualification or programme.”

To find out more about Seetec Outsource contact 0800 3891 999 employers@seetecoutsource.co.uk look up www.seetecoutsource.co.uk


Background information about Furlough and apprenticeship learning

Furlough is a temporary scheme in place for four months starting from 1 March 2020, which may be extended if necessary and employers can use this scheme anytime during this period. It is designed to help employers whose operations have been severely affected by coronavirus (COVID-19) to retain their employees and protect the UK economy.

Apprentices can be furloughed in the same way as other employees and they can continue to train whist furloughed. However, you must pay your apprentices at least the Apprenticeship Minimum Wage/National Living Wage/National Minimum Wage as appropriate for all the time they spend training. This means you must cover any shortfall between the amount you can claim for their wages through this scheme and their appropriate minimum wage.

Government guidance is available for changes in apprenticeship learning arrangements because of COVID-19.

Photos: Melanie Nicholson. Seetec Outsource logo

For media information about Seetec Group, please contact Nancy Rogers, PR and Communications Manager on 07779 251 711, email: nancy.rogers@seetec.co.uk

National award for Seetec Outsource apprentices

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BIFA awards highlight vital role of apprenticeships in developing future industry leaders


Two Seetec Outsource apprentices have been jointly named Apprentice of the Year at national awards recognising their contribution to the logistics industry.

Thomas Frost from Geodis and Jack Reddington from Hemisphere Freight Services won the British International Freight Association (BIFA) awards for their excellence in making a difference to their employer’s business.

Four apprentices were shortlisted for the award and judges were astounded by the quality of the applications and the knowledge and maturity they demonstrated facing rigorous face-to-face interviews and presentations.

Thomas, who was recruited to Geodis’ apprenticeship scheme by Seetec Outsource in July 2018, was chosen for the quality and thoroughness of his research and his professionalism and confidence in progressing his freight forwarding career. The judges identified him as a future leader in his field.

Chris Packwood, Managing Director, said: “Rarely, an employee shines so brightly it is impossible to overlook them and Thomas is one of these people. What really set Thomas apart was his assertive and confident manner coupled with a desire to learn.”

As well as learning functional aspects of his role quickly, from negotiating with airlines to completing export customs entries and airline delivery schedules, Thomas quickly grasped the commercial aspects.

Mr Packwood continued: “Thomas listens closely to advice and understands commercially that whilst moving goods is the role, making money is the goal. This was demonstrated when the team took on a challenge to maximise profits.

“Thomas, on his own initiative, kept the details of all shipments where he and the team had found ways to improve value for the company. I fully expect Thomas to become a future respected leader in the industry.”

Thomas started working in the freight industry with a part-time role at FedEx Express, which helped him to understand the opportunities to build a rewarding career.

After gaining his apprenticeship with Geodis, he quickly embraced the support provided by the structured learning programme combined with on the job training.

Thomas said: “I have been learning about business acumen and the need to identify opportunities for improvement. I look forward to starting a full-time role at Geodis and, long term, I aspire to a managerial role, ultimately Managing Director.”

Jack Reddington was chosen for his enthusiasm, persuasion and determination, with the judges describing him as “a superb ambassador for future apprenticeships.”

Jack’s managers at Hemisphere Freight Services, Louis Perrin and Katie Murphy, said he was their first apprentice and they were concerned the apprenticeship would be time-consuming and onerous for his colleagues.

“Jack has proved this to be wrong and he contributes massively to our team and has made us very passionate about bringing more apprentices into our company and the industry,” they said.

With his qualification in customs upcoming, Jack is moving into the import operations team. His managers continued: “Jack is an absolute natural when it comes to networking and building relationships with colleagues and industry peers.”

This has included becoming actively involved in the Young Forwarder Network and becoming vice-chair of the East Anglia region.

Jack said: “Over the next five years, I hope to become a supervisor and keep progressing my knowledge, career and experience at Hemisphere, while continuing to promote the industry to other young people. There are so many different career paths available in logistics, as well as numerous apprenticeship schemes like Hemisphere’s which give people an excellent grounding in the industry.

“I can honestly say that pursuing a career in the freight and logistics industry is the best decision I have ever made.”

Marnie Rose from Seetec Outsource said: “Thomas and Jack demonstrate the enormous value apprentices bring to both large and small businesses. With their enthusiasm and commitment, they provide real opportunities for employers to develop talent to future-proof their business.”

Robert Keen, BIFA Director General, said: “The calibre of entrants for the Apprenticeship category of the BIFA Freight Service awards was phenomenal. It gives me great confidence that the future of the industry will be in good hands – our challenge is to continue to recruit young talent to maintain the professionalism and high standards our industry requires.”

Anyone interested in launching their career in the logistics industry should contact recruitment@seetecoutsource.co.uk, Tel: 08455 199455. Employers interested in recruiting apprentices should contact Seetec Outsource on 0800 3891 999, email: employers@seetecoutsource.co.uk.


For media information about apprenticeships with Seetec Outsource please contact Nancy Rogers, PR and Communications Manager on 07779 251 711, email: nancy.rogers@seetec.co.uk