Having enjoyed a 25-year career in commercial management in professional football in a past life, I’m reminded of that iconic statement that former Liverpool star Alan Hansen made on ‘Match of the Day’ back in 1995, “you can’t win anything with kids”. I’ll come back to this if I may.

Before becoming involved in training and recruitment as Head of Marketing and PR with award-winning recruitment and training specialists MiddletonMurray, it’s fair to say that my perception of an ‘apprentice’ was probably someone learning plumbing or electrics or, as in my former profession, a young footballer who cleaned the boots of the senior pros!

The reality couldn’t be further away from this hackneyed view, as now apprenticeships are available across a huge array of industries.

But, while many big companies are now investing in apprenticeships, small and medium enterprises (SMEs) sometimes need more persuading as, historically, SMEs have not heavily used apprenticeships. I know from talking to my colleagues at MiddletonMurray that many employers believe that school leavers – and quite often graduates – lack the necessary skills to start work immediately and that apprenticeships, as a genuine career path, are not given a particularly high focus in schools.

As a consequence, SMEs can sometimes have a prejudiced view of apprenticeships in that there is a belief that a disproportionate amount of time must be spent training them and they are concerned that they won’t have enough work or perhaps staff resources to support the apprentice.

At MiddletonMurray, we are able to easily overcome this issue by doing pre-training with all of our apprentices – we do so in an authentic corporate environment and cover, amongst other things, areas such as timekeeping, how to dress appropriately, how to behave with your peers and how to ‘manage your manager’.

These ‘skills’ might be obvious to those of us who have been in the corporate world for a number of years, but these are not inherent skills – they are learned over time.

All of the apprentices on our programme understand the importance of appropriate office dress, but more than this they recognise that other people are relying on them – not just their employer, but their colleagues too. They learn how to be not just employable but to be an employee.

Another reason why perhaps SMEs don’t investigate the benefits of taking on apprentices is that, quite often, employers are unaware of the fact that they can use cost-effective Government funding schemes to build and expand their business while, at the same time, helping young people to develop sustainable careers by offering young people apprenticeships.

The great thing about apprenticeships, of course, is that employers can recruit people who have a fresh attitude towards business and a keen interest in working in their particular industry with a strong willingness to learn, which means that they add people to their team who are committed and who want to get on with their training and careers.

I started this article by mentioning Alan Hansen’s quote on ‘Match of the Day’. He was referring to a defeat by Manchester United on the first game of the 1995/96 season when fielding 6 players all aged under-20. The ‘kids’ he was referring to were the likes of Paul Scholes, Gary and Phillip Neville, Nicky Butt and David Beckham.

Sir Alex Ferguson knew what Alan Hansen meant but he also knew that to be successful at any level and in any business you need to have the perfect balance of youth and experience, so, into that youthful mix, he added experienced professionals like Peter Schmeichel, Steve Bruce, Gary Pallister and Eric Cantona.

Manchester United went on to win the League and Cup double that season!

Makes you think, doesn’t it?