In praise of Apprenticeships – the sector’s best kept secret!

Apprentices at work around a board table with laptops open and listening to a speaker
 standing at the end of the table

Last week I spent two days at the CIoF Fundraising Convention, but instead of attending as a delegate or a speaker, as I had in previous years, I was manning an exhibitor stand for training and apprenticeships provider, JGA Group.

I’ve been a tutor on the Level 3 Fundraiser apprenticeship for a little over a year, which is about half the time that the apprenticeship has been live. We had some great conversations on the stand about the value that apprenticeships could add to the workforce of charities, but my overriding feeling was a mild surprise at how little my fundraising peers knew about the apprenticeships offer. It really felt like the sector’s best kept training and development secret!

In fact, it was only when Richard Goodwin, JGA’s Managing Director asked me whether I knew about the fundraising apprenticeship before I was approached to tutor it, that I reflected and confessed that I hadn’t. So perhaps I shouldn’t have been quite so surprised…

So, this blog is in praise of apprenticeships because I think they can offer a huge amount in lots of different ways:

  • Attracting the best young talent from more diverse backgrounds. This is the thing that fires me up more than anything else. We know that getting a first job in fundraising after school or university can be tough. Young people who have family networks or those who can afford a long spell of unpaid work have a big advantage over those without that privileged background. The opportunity to learn on the job and be paid a wage as you learn the skills you need for success is huge.
  • Upskilling those joining the fundraising profession. Within our cohort we have an apprentice who has just transferred into a fundraising role from a service delivery role. She’s going to be a great fundraiser, and she’ll receive a grounding in theory as well as guided opportunities to put it into practice in her new role.
  • Filling in the gaps – there are probably not many jobs where you are expected to pick things up as you go along to the extent that this seems to happen in fundraising! We have a couple of quite senior fundraisers on our course who are telling us that they are benefiting from the learning they are doing and are finding the additional reading recommendations helpful.
  • Growing our own – the apprenticeship can be a great staff development and retention offer. Staff are going to judge employers less on their fine words around valuing their staff and more on what they do! An 18-month training and development package which adds value to the work of the team from day one is a powerful statement of intent from the employer.
  • Creating well-rounded fundraisers – we tend to specialise quite early in fundraising careers, so it’s great for our Trust fundraisers to be thinking about Corporate donor motivations or Community fundraisers to be thinking about data segmentation and so on. The strategy and planning tools taught on the course, as well as the module on influencing and creating a healthy fundraising culture will be hugely valuable to fundraisers as they develop their careers.
  • Making our profession a genuine career choice! Entry points to the profession like the apprenticeship put our career on the map for school advisors, career coaches and university job boards. So many of us ‘fell into fundraising’, but wouldn’t it be great if more of the best people made an active choice to join the profession?

Most of all, I want to get the message out there because all of this training is free!

The L3 Fundraiser apprenticeship costs £8,000, but this is funded via the Apprenticeship Levy which many charities (along with employers from all sectors) have contributed to.

The commitment on the part of the charity is to employ the apprentice for a minimum period of 18 months (or 30 months if part-time), and to give them the time to study and apply their learning on the job, as well as supporting them to put their learning into practice. For a full-time apprentice, the time they need to be given for their apprenticeship equates to 20% of the working week, or one day. However, the work they are asked to produce for their portfolio is grounded in the work of the organisation and their day job, so you will see evidence of their development in their day to day work.

JGA offers apprenticeships in a range of standards which are relevant to charities (and providers / suppliers to the sector) including; three levels of Marketing apprenticeships from Assistant to Manager (L3, L4, L6); Digital, Content Creator, PR and Communications, Policy, Event Assistant and others. If you are interested in learning more about the apprenticeships have a look at the JGA website and drop Laura Thurlow a line. Laura coordinates across all of the relevant standards and would be happy to have a chat (as I would be about the Fundraiser standard).

The private and public sectors have recognised the advantage of this free training for their teams. I would hate for the voluntary sector to be left behind. Last year £2.4bn was unused in the apprenticeship levy pot – let’s make sure charities are getting their share. Please share this blog with colleagues and on your social channels if you agree!

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