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Good apprentice schemes boost reputations of leading organisations

  • The UK Government target for apprenticeships has increased the positive impact of hiring announcements in 2015
  • Companies winning political advocacy for their apprenticeship schemes are outperforming their peers for reputation
  • Companies not being seen to play fair with apprentices are suffering significant criticism

Political support for apprentices

The UK government’s target of three million new apprentices by 2020 and recent apprenticeship levy both mean that political support and media coverage for skills initiatives are both likely to be high in coming years. However, the target has raised questions about the quality of the training schemes being offered and those seen to be manipulating the system have received significant criticism.

In the defence and infrastructure sectors, operational performance and financial results have in the past tended to be the primary drivers of reputational performance. The key stakeholders for these firms are typically governments, regulators and investors. Therefore firms delivering on operational commitments and exceeding investor expectations have previously maintained the strongest sentiment positions.

Catalysts for positivity

Recently, however, those out-performing the rest of the sector have done so through their narratives around skills and investing in apprentices. The May general election and other catalysts such as National Apprentices Week and Business In The Community events all created increased media coverage for training and STEM education initiatives, resulting in narratives around skills being particularly effective in improving sentiment at the beginning of 2015.

The graph below shows how sentiment around some of the top performers for skills across all sectors has moved from October 2014 – March 2015, highlighting some of the strongest drivers for positive sentiment. All of the companies shown above have performed towards the top of their respective sectors in recent months and all trended above the neutral point (5.50) for the period.

Sentiment trend for Skills: October 2014 – March 2015





Best & worst practice

BAE Systems scored as the top performer for skills from October 2014 – March 2015 through advocacy from political figures such as Vince Cable and Ed Milliband and through its help in designing the government’s trailblazer scheme. Hiring announcements also resonated particularly well for all companies, with BT’s announcement of 1,000 new apprentice and graduate jobs lifting the company’s sentiment to its highest point for the period.

At the other end of the spectrum, companies creating low-paid apprenticeships paying below the National Living Wage or effectively rebranding clerical jobs as training schemes have suffered significant media criticism impacting their reputations. The indirect consequences of being seen to be manipulating the system also undermines these firm’s positive narratives around corporate culture and can affect their ability to recruit and retain top talent.

At least until 2020, defence and infrastructure companies that maintain strong narratives around their investment in people, engage with ministers on the issue and leverage skills-related events for their own gain stand to strengthen their reputations with key stakeholders.


Christopher Cleves

If you want to know more about what drives reputational performance in the utilities, infrastructure, defence or mining industries or about alva’s reputation rankings please contact

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