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Noama Chaudhry


Why apprenticeships are important for the voluntary sector

Noama Chaudhry


To mark National Apprenticeship Week 2023, Noama Chaudhry shares insights from her apprenticeship at NCVO and offers advice for the wider sector.

What is an apprenticeship?

An apprenticeship is a paid job where the employee learns and gains valuable experiences.

Alongside on-the-job training, apprentices spend at least 20% of their working hours off the job learning with a college, university, or training provider, which leads to a nationally recognised qualification.

Over the last three and a half years I’ve been doing a degree apprenticeship at NCVO. My apprenticeship has three elements:

I’ve been on placements in various teams across NCVO. I effectively start a new job every six months! I’m able to learn from colleagues, develop a range of skills, and know first-hand what it’s like to work for an organisation. For example, I have written part of the Almanac, co-led a staff network, and answered enquiries from our members.

I’ve always thought a degree apprenticeship is the best pathway you could take after school. You’re able to get a debt-free degree, a qualification, and four years of work experience. You’re both learning and earning, and you’re able to make a practical difference straight away.

The voluntary sector needs to do more

I was 19 at the start of my apprenticeship. Three and a half years later, I’m still the youngest person in the organisation. According to NCVO’s Almanac data, only 6% of employees in the voluntary sector are under 25 and less than 2% are aged 16-19.

So, there’s a significant lack of representation of younger generations in the workforce. Meanwhile, a quarter of staff in the voluntary sector are over 55. It’s the same in charity governance too – just 3% of trustees are under 30.

In comparison, the private sector employs double the proportion of under 25’s thanks to an abundance of opportunities. The voluntary sector needs to create more entry points, such as alternative routes to typical education, and provide work experience for students at school.

What entry level schemes could my organisation offer?

An example of a school leaver programme is what I’m doing, a degree apprenticeship. Through this scheme, an apprentice can work at an organisation whilst also studying for a bachelor’s or master’s degree. Their training is paid for by the organisation through the apprenticeship levy.

The government has also recently introduced T-levels. This follows a similar idea, with students studying for three A-levels whilst working at an organisation. Paid internships, graduate programmes and industry placements are other examples which could be more prevalent in the voluntary sector.

Through all these schemes, young people can learn knowledge, behaviours and skills that will help them navigate the future workforce. These are things that can’t be taught in a classroom – they can only be developed through practical experience.

Why should my organisation take on an apprentice?

Offering an apprenticeship scheme will help attract and retain staff at a younger age. Apprenticeships provide a way for young people to get their foot in the door – something that I have often heard is difficult to do, particularly in the voluntary sector.

Many organisations can get funding for an apprentice. Employing an apprentice adds capacity your organisation, making it a low-cost, high-value investment. Plus, these schemes are highly competitive and attract talent.

Apprenticeship programmes also increase social mobility and representation in the sector. In the Queen Mary social change scheme I’m on, for example, 80% of my cohort are from minority backgrounds, and all were under 30 when they joined.

These schemes are therefore an excellent way to introduce new ideas, approaches and perspectives to your organisation. Whole pockets of society currently lack a voice in the sector – apprenticeships can play an important role in changing this culture.

I hope to see the voluntary sector grab these opportunities and commit to creating a more diverse workforce.

More information

If your organisation is interested in learning more about apprenticeships, a great place to start is the government’s guide to employing an apprentice.

The Institute for Apprenticeships (IFATE) website also has information for employers.

National Apprenticeship Week has lots of resources and information for organisations. The week itself takes place from 6-12 February. You can get involved on social media using the hashtag #NAW2023.

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