If you have read the employment news headlines over the past 6-12 months, you’ve probably wondered what the future looks like for graduate recruitment now that apprenticeship schemes are in the limelight. With the government having pledged to support three million apprenticeships by 2020, the current focus is very much on getting school leavers straight into the world of work. But how do graduate schemes fit into this discussion? Whilst it’s dominating the headlines, precise details surrounding the apprenticeship levy are still yet to be revealed, making it difficult to determine the impact it may have. However, with the details that are out there, here’s my view:

The impact on the graduate marketplace

With the increase of quality, degree-level apprenticeships, this may challenge the traditional route of a university degree for students. Students hired in these apprenticeship positions will actually get more of a head-start than those who choose to study a degree as by the time a three year degree course has finished, an apprentice will already have had three years’ experience within that industry, as well as the equivalent training and qualifications that would come with the apprenticeship, plus a regular salary.

If this is the case, the numbers of traditional graduate schemes offered by businesses could reduce and organisations may instead turn towards the apprenticeship training route, particularly if the levy means that they will receive vouchers to pay for these.

However, it is difficult to speculate exactly how much of an impact the apprenticeship levy will have because it all depends on how universities will react to the levy and whether they will adapt in any way to make the university route more appealing. Graduate numbers have always remained high for the last few decades, despite increasing tuition fees, so there are no similar circumstantial trends that we can use to predict exactly how this will impact our the graduate marketplace, particularly with the lack of clarity at the moment on the ways that the levy funding can be used.

There is also the reality that there will still be university graduates and there will still be graduate schemes! Many businesses have well-established training schemes that have been used and developed for many years and uncertainty over changes to these would probably put many employers off. In addition to this, by 2020, 34% of 25-64 year olds will hold degrees and employers will most likely still follow the tradition of looking for people that hold degrees to place into management roles.

So that’s the case for higher degree-level apprenticeships, but what about entry-level apprenticeship schemes? It is important to remember that entry-level apprentices are not a replacement for graduates. The two career development routes are very different and not interchangeable. In fact, the apprenticeship levy is most likely to be used to train staff within a certain vocational skill type that is otherwise difficult to learn during more traditional education – in simple terms it would be at ‘technician’ level rather than at management level.

This highlights that graduate schemes do certainly still have a place in the market and they are not likely to budge anytime soon to make room for brand new apprentice schemes that would replace them.

All in all, at this early stage, we can only speculate as to the impact the apprenticeship levy will have on graduate recruitment. What is important is that the government are protecting money to help young people build the careers they want, whilst allowing access for all, which really is excellent news.

Whilst it’s difficult to say with any surety at the moment, I predict that the organisations that will stand out from the crowd will be those who take a blended approach to recruiting early talent, building their talent pipeline through employing graduates and apprentices and developing them symbiotically.