March 14, 2016

Elizabeth Potier: On the value of apprenticeships

Elizabeth Potier

Elizabeth Potier


When most people hear the term ‘apprentice’ what often springs to mind is a young adult starting out in a profession such as plumbing, engineering, hairdressing, or similar.

I’m a huge advocate of apprenticeships. I didn’t go to university. I joined BNY Mellon at 18 years old, originally on a gap year having deferred entry to York University. I was very academic from a family of graduates who expected me to go to university. But I wanted to work and ideally study towards a formal qualification at the same time. Apprenticeships were not well advertised in the kind of college I was at in 2006, and there was definitely a stigma attached too.

Misconceptions about the professions which offer apprenticeships, qualifications, pay and age still exist and put many people off pursuing this route into the workplace. If we surveyed the British public, I would expect the lion’s share of people, young and old, would not know that apprenticeships are available in financial services.

The good news is progress is being made in addressing these misconceptions.

Apprenticeships have since evolved into a genuine alternative to university – not just a route for those without the requisite grades, destined for a trade.

I think the expansion of apprenticeships in white collar industries has aligned with the increasing importance and value placed on experience and aptitude. It’s fantastic that you can get in the door without a degree – particularly as university tuition fees have become even more prohibitive.

Being an apprentice means you have the opportunity to gain a recognised qualification and develop professional skills, while earning a salary, inside some of the world’s best companies, including BNY Mellon.

We have taken on more than 150 apprentices since opening in Manchester in 2005 and have plans to recruit more this year. Many have joined on a recommendation from others who work here, knowing it is a great place to work and do business.

More than half of all our apprentices have worked here more than five years, with almost half of those reaching management level positions, proving that you can make it to the top regardless of how you start.

Today marks the start of National Apprenticeship Week in England – a week of celebrating the crucial role that apprenticeships play in upskilling the nation and increasing productivity.

Each day this week, we will be sharing stories from some of our Manchester-based employees who joined as an apprentice, from those just starting, to those who have been with the company for more than 10 years. And on Friday, we will tackle what the biggest myths are around apprenticeships.

To join the National Apprenticeship Week conversation, follow the hashtag #NAW2016 on Twitter or follow @Apprenticeships