The importance of apprenticeships

The key role of apprenticeships in shaping a more inclusive future for the advertising industry.

Simon Frazier, IPA Head of TouchPoints Marketing & Data Innovation, summarises the main points of Kandice Quain's presentation at the 2023 IPA Media Planning and Strategy Summit about the key role of apprenticeships in shaping a more inclusive future for the advertising industry.

Kandice Quain is a Media Manager at Bray Leino with several years’ experience in Media Planning & Buying, as well as being Chair of Embrace – A Mission Group ERG for Ethnic Minorities in the industry. A passionate champion of diverse talent, she’s an apprenticeship mentor and key member of her Agency’s DEI team, Open House. Her current area of focus is on improving access to the industry for under-represented groups. In 2022 her work to improve diversity within Bray Leino and the wider industry was recognised by the IPA, winning her a place on the iList. One of the Agency’s remote team members, Kandice is based in Manchester.

At the 2023 IPA Media Planning and Strategy Summit, Kandice presented with an infectious energy and enthusiasm for a topic she was so passionate about: apprenticeships and their role in shaping a more inclusive future for the advertising industry.

Watch the Session from the 2023 IPA Media Planning and Strategy Summit


Breaking down barriers

Kandice opened by stating that one of the main reasons apprenticeships were so important to the industry is their fundamentally inclusive nature. She spoke of how, historically, pathways to entering the advertising industry were inherently biased due to the restrictions and requirements many employers had for a minimum university level of education. She further detailed how getting started in advertising would often require some form of internship whereby candidates often needed to know someone, and these internship schemes were largely unpaid. One of the inherent problems that Kandice spoke of, was that these requirements for entry meant not only did you need to come from a background where university level education was available to you, but that you also needed a certain level of financial support, often from family, for basic costs of living. Again, this was exclusionary for people from less affluent backgrounds. Kandice said the great thing about apprenticeships is that “they are accessible to typically underserved groups in both the media and creative sectors. Learning through an employer-funded apprenticeship gives opportunities to people from all backgrounds regardless of socioeconomic status. Higher education simply isn’t attainable to a large portion of the UK where the privilege of not working while you study just isn’t an option”, highlighting the broadly exclusive barriers to entry for a career in advertising.

Earn while you learn

In terms of overcoming socio-economic barriers to entering the advertising industry, Kandice talked of how “apprenticeships offer the ability for apprentices to earn while they learn”. This reduces a reliance on familial financial support, which is often a pre-requisite for unpaid internships.

Another great feature of apprenticeship schemes that Kandice spoke of is “they have the added benefit of being supported with a Maths and English GCSE requirement, which can be rolled into the course if needed”. This means those who weren’t perhaps given the opportunity to undertake these qualifications during their time in education need not be excluded. Kandice spoke of the wonderful benefits from her experience at Bray Leino. She explained how the apprenticeship scheme “gives a much wider opportunity to recruit from typically overlooked postcode areas. It removes barriers due to the fact that it prioritises skills over formal education, which levels the playing field for candidates who may face discrimination in the traditional hiring process”.

The challenge of a rapidly changing landscape

One of the key challenges of entering the advertising industry, where everything moves so fast, is that knowledge can quickly become out of date. Kandice stated, “With an industry that moves so fast, by the time knowledge has found its way into academic textbooks, it is already out of date”. She further added, “I’ve had first-hand experience of this from speaking with the many students that have come through the doors at Bray Leino in the past few years and mentoring an apprentice of my own. What they’re learning in the classroom just hasn’t yet caught up with the real world”. She then spoke of how “one of the beautiful things about apprenticeships is that they’re so much more flexible and changes in the industry can be quickly applied to the curriculum, whereas traditional education can teach theory, on-the-job learning is much more practical and can be immediately applied”.

Leading on from the key skills and development opportunities that Jenny mentioned in her keynote speech, Kandice spoke of how through apprenticeships “on the job learning accelerates skills development, fosters critical thinking, hones problem-solving abilities and it encourages adaptability”. She also emphasised how “teamwork and communication are highly encouraged through apprenticeship training programmes”

Learning through an employer-funded apprenticeship gives opportunities to people from all backgrounds regardless of socioeconomic status.

Kandice Quain, Media Manager, Bray Leino

The unrivalled return on investment in apprenticeships

One thing that particularly piqued the interest of the audience was Kandice’s statement that “for every one pound invested in apprenticeship training, 28 pounds is put back into the economy”. This is a level of return on investment which is almost unheard of today, and clearly demonstrates what a missed opportunity it is for employers who don’t invest in apprenticeship schemes. But the missed opportunities didn’t end there.

The apprenticeship levy and the wasted opportunity

Kandice went on to talk about the value of the largely unknown apprenticeship levy. This is a “government tax that is paid by employers, which is then held in a fund for 24 months with the aim being that the employer will use that fund for training and development of their workforce through apprenticeship programmes”. This sounded fantastic, as a tax which is already being paid by businesses immaterial, having the opportunity to take this money and invest it in an apprenticeship scheme that would ultimately drive further profitability, sounds like a no-brainer. But then came a shocking fact. Kandice stated, “In the last three years in the UK more than £3.3bn of unused apprenticeship levy funding has just gone back into the Treasury”. This represents a loss of potential productivity opportunity of £92.4bn.

Why is the levy not being used?

Kandice talked of how research has shown that a large part of why the apprenticeship levy funding is not being used comes down to a variety of misconceptions. These range from not even knowing it’s available, thinking that apprenticeships are only for school leavers, to employers being concerned that due to the learning involved, 20% of apprentices’ time will be spent away from their core job role. Kandice demonstrated that in reality, apprenticeships can actually be undertaken by anyone from any background, immaterial of age. They can even be used by existing employees or someone wishing to change their career. She further added that “apprenticeships actually range from a level two to a level seven and a level seven is equivalent to a master’s degree”. She went on to say, “Apprenticeships revolve around the job role, projects are jobbased, and the endpoint assessment or dissertation is based on real-life undertakings of job responsibilities, not only is an apprentice enriching their knowledge but they’re adding to what they already bring to the business and ultimately it’s the business that benefits”.

So, what is there to lose?

Kandice closed her presentation by posing a simple question, “So what is there to lose by investing in apprenticeships?”. In response she demonstrated four key benefits that can’t be denied.

  1. Apprenticeships break down barriers.
  2. Apprenticeships can help address the skills gap.
  3. Apprenticeships can help to increase diversity within the industry on all fronts, making advertising much more accessible to all.
  4. Apprenticeships help to create a more vibrant and innovative industry that truly represents the world that we live in. “apprenticeships actually range from a level two to a level seven and a level seven is equivalent to a master’s degree”.
See more apprenticeships information for employers


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Last updated 01 May 2024