Mastering apprentices

Mastering apprentices

We at LDN Apprenticeships are delighted that the first Publishing Assistant Apprenticeship is now under way. It has been a couple of years in the planning, but the first 16 publishing apprentices are now working at a variety of organisations, from Penguin Random House to the International Water Association Publishing in a multitude of roles, from editorial to sales and marketing.

The apprenticeship was created by LDN Apprenticeships alongside the Publishers Association, and provides a new route into the industry. Currently the graduate and postgraduate entry route in publishing comes with a hefty price tag. Many students have to commit to around £53,000 of debt to gain their degree, with no certainty of getting a role. The apprenticeship, created to support entry-level hires in the publishing industry, provides a debt-free introduction to the industry. It comprises 12 workshop-style training modules—including Editorial, Publishing Systems, Production, Legal, Design, Sales, Marketing, Digital Publishing and PR—and aims to provide a broad overview of the book industry.

So how can the apprenticeship benefit the industry? Calls for new and diverse voices within UK publishing have been made for several years; the Publishing Assistant Apprenticeship is a viable step towards addressing this issue, but it offers more than that. It gives publishers the opportunity to ensure entry-level recruits understand the industry, and how the publishing process works.

With a structured curriculum structured around an apprentice’s day-to-day role, as well as learning from industry experts and their peers, the 13-month programme enables the apprentice to understand the context in which they are working. It also makes them more productive in a shorter period of time. Thanks to the broad nature of the apprenticeship, it is suitable for a number of assistant-level positions within larger organisations. LDN Apprenticeships works with employers to ensure apprentices excel in their roles, while receiving a top-quality grounding in the industry. Smaller publishers are ideally placed to benefit from an apprentice with a broad knowledge of various processes, who will be equipped to work in companies where it is not uncommon for one person to take on multiple roles at work.

The FAQs
Upon completion of the apprenticeship, the participant will gain an entry-level Publishing Assistant qualification. While this will challenge traditional entry routes into the industry, how can you be sure that hiring an apprentice is right for you and your organisation? The following are a few common questions asked of apprenticeships.

Is it just for firms paying the Apprenticeship Levy? No: funding is available for any organisation. If you do not pay the levy, the apprenticeship is funded either by a levy share, or by a nominal contribution to the training (£300 plus VAT), with the rest drawn from government funding.

Isn’t the off-the-job training basically a day out the office a week? Not at all. For the apprenticeship, the staffer would be out of the office for one or two days a month. The rest of the off-the-job training can be completed in the office of their employer, either online or through coaching sessions. The off-the-job training can be very flexible.

Won’t the apprentice take up more of my time than other hires? No more so than any other new starters. In some ways, it takes significantly less. The majority of training employers would need to provide is covered by the apprenticeship provider, which will free up the line manager’s time. At the beginning, you need to be prepared to give feedback often, but with the right candidate, once they are up and running, the support from the apprentice scheme means that, other than the monthly review sessions, there is little extra time involved.

How long is the commitment? The Publishing Assistant Apprenticeship consists of 12 months of teaching and an assessment period of up to three months. And if it doesn’t work out? Apprentices are employed on the same contract as your other employees, so probation periods and all standard employment laws apply.

What are the financial implications of taking on an apprentice? Employers are expected to pay the apprentice a salary, but if your firm pays the Apprentice Levy (annual payroll of £3m-plus), that will cover the training costs. For non-levy payers, there are two ways to pay for the training: either via a levy share from a levy payer, or through co-contribution, where the majority of the funding is drawn from the government and all the employer has to contribute is £300 plus VAT. (A number of organisations have already expressed an interest in participating in a levy share; if you would like to know more, please do get in contact.)

So all told, what opportunities does the Publishing Assistant Apprenticeship offer the book trade? A completely new route into the industry; a far more diverse industry; and “gold-standard” training for entry-level roles within the publishing industry.

Marcus Simmons is the corporate partnerships manager at LDN Apprenticeships. If you would like to find out more about the apprenticeship, contact