Guardian journalist Jan Murray‘s announcement that she is taking on an Apprentice is another sign that the attitude toward vocational qualifications is changing.
Degrees churn out indebted graduates who, in the PR industry as in journalism, spend the immediate aftermath of their degree on post-graduate qualifications or as juniors learning their trade.
Indeed, those graduates who don’t do subsequent under-paid PR ‘internships’ or qualifications, find themselves being criticised for not being ‘work ready’ or even being unable to write anything other than an essay.
I’ve long argued that it is time to set up a PR Apprenticeship scheme, in fact the evidence I collated in setting up the industry’s first PR Apprenticeship led me to argue that recruitment of talent and the failure to introduce PR Apprenticeships is one of the biggest challenges for PR agencies in the future:
We need to move away from the idea that a degree is a starting point for entry to our industry. Some of the best PRs I’ve worked with never finished, or even started a degree… Now, there’s a almost universal academic snobbery around trainees – all agencies have ‘graduate trainees’. But few have Apprentices. This is crazy. Apprentices can take on the admin workload of a graduate, many are just as passionate about the media (some even more so), willing to work hard and the government will subsidise them.
There’s another benefit to broadening entry points to the industry. Diversity will improve. With improved diversity will come a better understanding of audiences / communities and improved creativity.
Through my work as an educational journalist, I’ve spoken to dozens of apprentices over the past few years and, without exception, I’ve been amazed by their maturity, commitment and willingness to learn.
Murray rightly identifies that in journalism, as in PR and other media careers, a common core set of intellectual and character attributes are essential – such as an inquisitive mind, good writing, maths and research skills, initiative and determination – but that everything else can be learned on the job.
But progress is slow. To date, just Shine seem to have an active formal programme in place and backing from the industry associations the CIPR and PRCA is silent to the point of non-existence.
And it is only through more co-ordinated industry action that we will change the way that the media recruits for good.
If anyone wants to hear more about the challenges I had in setting up an Apprenticeship in PR, then please email simon at simonfrancis.org.