As any of our staff will tell you, working in a day nursery is challenging, very hands-on, always varied and hugely rewarding. A job in a day nursery is a vocation – some would say it is a calling. But as a vocation, the necessary skills can be learned on the job and so junior positions in day nurseries can be usefully filled through the current apprenticeship scheme. The scheme mixes training at work (including gaining valuable work experience) with study in a college setting so that apprentices gain job-specific skills as well as general skills.
With the subsidies for small employers as a financial incentive, and a general skills shortage in the day nursery sector, you would be right to expect a high apprentice take-up rate. But at the time of writing, out of some 700 jobs in the sector currently advertised here on daynurseries.co.uk only six are for apprentices. And here on nurseryworldjobs.co.uk there are only four true apprentice jobs out of some 300 advertised. These statistics suggest that our sector is not embracing apprentices. We know that in our areas of operation across Wiltshire and Hampshire, very few day nurseries are taking apprentices on. We speak to the apprentice contacts in the colleges around our settings and they are frustrated at the number of apprenticeship places that are available at any one time across all sectors, not just day nurseries.
At First Friends, we always have at least one apprentice on our books, and sometimes more. When we have found the right young people, they have excelled and gone on to become competent, caring professionals in their field. But, apparently, not all day nursery companies feel the same.
Our experience proves how worthwhile the UK apprentice scheme is to the day nurseries sector. More day nurseries should embrace the UK apprenticeship scheme as way to access cost-effective, enthusiastic youngsters with lots to offer. In the long run, today’s apprentices are tomorrow’s managers, and we all have a duty to invest in the UK’s future labour force.
We are delighted to report that our Salisbury setting was a finalist at this year’s South Wiltshire Business Awards in the Apprentice Employer category. Well done to our staff team there, led by our manager Jane Andrews. Let’s hope that the recognition of our achievement encourages others to think more positively about apprenticeships.