Why apprenticeships are important for Generation-Z

9 mins read time

Gen Z is the generation succeeding Millennials. It includes anyone born between 1997 to 2012, currently aged between 10 and 24 years old (in June 2022).

They are true ‘digital natives’, having been the first generation to grow up with on-the-go internet at their fingertips. They’ve experienced the domination of social media, witnessed the birth of ‘the influencer’ and have taken on the fight for climate change – which explains why they’re looking for a new approach to the working world.

This is a real positive, as the conversation about after-school options has changed drastically in recent years. Previously, the options for school leavers were quite limited. To level up their career prospects, millennials were encouraged to pursue more formal, traditional education routes (university or college) or go straight into full-time employment and work their way up.

Now, Gen Zers can access all kinds of dynamic and attractive career-building opportunities. And they’re pursuing them too. Apprenticeships are an increasingly popular route to work – a type of training that’s no longer aimed just at specialist trade roles. Learning is available for all young people (no matter their background or experience levels), designed to open up progressive career pathways across all roles and sectors.

Here we look at how apprenticeships are shaping the younger generation, the benefits of apprenticeships compared to traditional qualifications and how Gen Z are influencing businesses.


How apprenticeships can shape younger generations

Young people currently forming the foundations of their careers fit roughly into the Gen-Z category. They’re an ambitious group, that value learning and on-the-job training and look for fast career progression in their chosen industries.

There’s a real drive from this young generation to start careers straight out of school. With pay-back loans only increasing, many Gen Zers are thinking seriously about their finances and considering alternative ways to build successful careers.

They’re interested in how they can both earn money and get experience, quickly. Unlike other education routes, apprenticeships provide the opportunity to earn while learning (and avoid building up debt while doing it). The training is paid for by their employer, who also have funding options and access to government-backed incentives to help cover the costs.

Because most Gen Zers are pretty savvy with social media, they’re exposed to the success stories of people who are self-made and own businesses at a young age. It’s fuelling their ambitions for successful careers – and apprenticeships present the perfect opportunity to shape them. We spoke to Izzy Simpson, Senior Apprenticeship Coordinator at Lifetime to find out more.

"There’s been a shift in the importance of actually earning a wage. A lot of candidates are coming out of school, wanting to get to grips with their chosen industry straight away and work their way up with industry-recognised qualifications. Candidates have ambitions of starting their own gym or becoming personal trainers, or running their own pub.

There is ambition and drive from this generation, and candidates are looking at what they can do for a step up in their careers. Qualifications really do boost their progression, and apprenticeships are the perfect solution to make it happen."

Izzy Simpson, Senior Apprenticeship Coordinator at Lifetime

Benefits of apprenticeships for young people

Apprenticeships offer hands-on, role-relevant training, with a faster route to a qualification than a traditional degree. Most programmes are around a year long, which means young apprentices can complete numerous apprenticeships (and progress their career) in the average time it would take to complete a degree. Here are some key benefits for young apprentices:

Earn and learn (while avoiding university debt)
Structured training designed for specific roles
Clear direction for fast career progression
Accessible training, for everyone
Work experience from day one of learning
A faster route to a recognised qualification
Transferrable skills for long-term employability

For school leavers with little work experience, it’s an invaluable opportunity to gain insight into the wide variety of teams, as well as first-hand experience in different aspects of a business. It’s exactly what Hannah (B&Q’s first recruited apprentice) experienced. She left college to pursue her Retailer Level 2 apprenticeship and hasn’t looked back since.

"I was in college doing a business course, but it wasn’t something I enjoyed or could see myself doing long-term. The opportunity to do an apprenticeship came up, so I left college to do something that was going to give me a lot more hands-on experience in the workplace.

The best thing about the apprenticeship was moving departments and learning the different skills needed. I was trained in different areas of the store, from replenishment to checkouts, décor and hardware. It's really given me experience and opened up opportunities for my career in retail. We’re already talking about the next steps for me – a Level 3 apprenticeship in Customer Service. I’d 100% recommend apprenticeships to other people my age."

Hannah, Retailer Level 2 apprentice at B&Q

A structured career path

According to Deloitte’s 2022 Gen-Z and Millenial report, 29% of those asked said they were working for their companies because of learning and development opportunities, with 23% stating they were in roles because of opportunities to progress.

Apprenticeships provide clear career paths, and can be leveraged to shape Gen Zers’ futures. It’s training that is flexible and with a varied workload – exactly what Gen Z looks for. And with support from experienced mentors that ease apprentices into roles, the younger generation can start careers in a structured and progressive environment.

Developing young talent is invaluable to organisations. Apprenticeships develop future leaders, by instilling a culture of further education with structured training (all tailored to unique workplace environments). From a business perspective, these home-grown apprentices tend to be loyal, so are more likely to stay and progress with their employer.

George Marsh started his career at Lifetime as a Level 2 apprentice, just weeks after finishing his last GCSE exam. Over the last six years, he’s continued to use apprenticeships to work his way up in recruitment and is now an IT Apprentice Recruitment Coordinator. We asked him about his experience as a Gen Z apprentice.

“I left school at sixteen and looked at my next steps: college or an apprenticeship. For me, it was a question of whether I wanted to go to college and work part-time on the weekends or earn money while learning.

I started as an apprentice doing a Level 2 apprenticeship while in a sales support role. I then progressed to becoming a Recruitment Coordinator, while doing a Level 3 apprenticeship in business admin. By the time I had finished, I was a Senior Coordinator within the team. It meant at age eighteen, I was interviewing people who had been down the traditional education routes and got their degree. With an apprenticeship, you’re getting real work experience alongside the education. It gives you more experience, and a head start in the workplace.”

George Marsh, IT Apprentice Recruitment Coordinator at Lifetime

How young adults can influence businesses

According to Deloitte's report, Gen Z are tech-savvy like no other generation – even compared to Millennials. Because they’ve only ever known a digital world, Gen Z are the experts for multitasking digitally. They can take on board heavy loads of information seamlessly and are very adaptable to change. It’s why young candidates are ideal for industries that are based in digital technology, or any business that need any level of digital fluency.

Gen Z bring new skill-sets and perspectives. They tend to be informed, independent and are not afraid to speak their minds, which can be refreshing and provide an innovative direction that a business needs. But of course, they also need role-specific skills for their workplace too.

It calls for bespoke, more personalised upskilling to engage this new workforce and make sure they’re learning the skills needed for their specific job role in the workplace. Apprenticeships provide the perfect solution for both. Maggie Morris, Enrolment Course Advisor at Lifetime falls into Gen Z. She applied to do an apprenticeship at Lifetime to gain experience in the workplace, after pursuing traditional education.

“I’d already been to university and got a degree. Although I had lots of knowledge, I had little workplace experience, which I found quite limiting in terms of career progression. Apprenticeships have given me work-based learning and taught me how businesses work. It’s given me life skills about learning how to do a job, but it also opens your eyes to where else you can go within the company.”

Maggie Morris, Enrolment Course Advisor at Lifetime

At Lifetime, we work with businesses to develop apprenticeship programmes that challenge Gen Z, harness their innovative ideas and develop skills right away. We also work with our partners to recruit apprentices, creating an invaluable pipeline of young talent for businesses.

Leading hospitality employer Mitchells and Butlers partnered with Lifetime to drive its new ambition for recruiting 16-18 year olds. But without ever actively recruiting this age group before, it meant a company-wide culture shift needed to happen to bust some myths around hiring young people. Now, young apprentices are an essential part of M&B’s overarching training strategy. Find out how we worked together to develop an award-winning recruitment strategy.

How Lifetime support young apprentices

Around a third of Lifetime’s learner base is Gen Z. We work closely with both apprentices and employers to make sure new recruits can hit the ground running and progress quickly, learn about their new company culture and start gaining new skills from day one of learning.

We also recognise that they’re entering the world of work for the first time, so may not have much experience of how businesses work. While they’re bringing fresh perspectives, they also might need some additional support to help them settle into the workplace. Our learning coaches work closely with apprentices to support them through their learning journey, uncovering the best tools to support different learning styles to unlock the potential of each individual.

We also offer Lifeskills support. It’s guidance for apprentices around ‘real-life’ areas, such as finance, and it's how we support our partners when onboarding and working with young apprentices.

For learners who haven’t achieved Engish and maths qualifcations, we also deliver functional skills training. Learners receive 1-1 support from their Lifetime coach, with training completed as part of the apprenticeship. These qualifications are essential for any type of career progression, and apprenticeships provide a practical approach to learning core skills.

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