PR Trailblazer Group launches new PR apprenticeship standard during National Apprenticeship Week 2024 

From 5 February 2024, an upgraded PR and communications apprenticeship standard will be available to employers seeking to nurture the next generation of communications professionals.

Launched during National Apprenticeship Week 2024 (5 – 11 February), the new standard has been fully updated to meet the demands of employers in an increasingly digital world, with an increased focus on building, protecting and maintaining a positive reputation for brands, organisations and individuals. 

Developed by the Apprenticeship Trailblazer Group, which represents leading UK organisations, businesses, and communications consultancies, and guided by the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education (IfATE), the new standard also benefits from a 37.5 per cent increase in funding for training providers from the Department for Education. 

“As a dynamic and ever-evolving creative industry, the communications sector relies on fresh talent, innovative ideas and different perspectives to grow and succeed. This is why it’s so important we offer people the opportunity to develop the skills that will give them the best possible start to their career in communications,” explains Andrew Baud, Chair of the Apprenticeship Trailblazer Group for IfATE and founder of international PR consultancy TALA.  

The organisations contributing to the new standard included the Cabinet Office, TALA, Mitie, ADPR, Wessex Water, Department for Education, Valuable 500, Campaign Collective, and Westco Communications. Training providers and assessors, including the PRCA, The JGA Group, Press Association and AIM were also closely involved. 

As a Public Relations and Communications Assistant, the apprentice will build relationships with different audiences through their daily work, to communicate messages and influence opinions and behaviour in the most effective way for their organisation. The standard outlines specific knowledge, skills and behaviours (KSBs) that an apprentice can work towards, and now includes risk assessment methodologies and approaches to mitigate or manage reputational impact and implementation of crisis plans.  

“With the rise of cancel culture and the proliferation of social media platforms, organisations and individuals are increasingly facing challenges to their reputations, which can often sideline proactive communications messages and at worse completely undermine or destroy their reputations,” continues Baud. “It is essential that organisations start building the skills to mitigate reputation issues and crises across their communications teams as early as possible.” 

Lucy Cox is currently an apprentice Junior Media Relations Officer at The Scouts. She explains, “taking on a new career can be hard but undertaking an apprenticeship made this a more adaptable approach for me. I feel that ‘learning by doing’ has really reinforced the theory of everything I have studied, and has allowed me to put it into practice in a supportive, safe environment. Working at the Scouts has been incredible, the support from both them and the PRCA has been phenomenal in obtaining the skills needed for my new career. It has opened my eyes to the many opportunities in the PR industry, and I know that following my apprenticeship the world of PR is my oyster.”  

Towards the end of the 19-month apprenticeship there is an end-point assessment for all Public Relations and Communications Assistants. Anyone successfully completing the apprenticeship will be eligible to apply for membership of the Public Relations & Communications Association (PRCA). 

“At the PRCA, we take the importance of nurturing budding communicators’ talents very seriously,” explains Stephanie Umebuani, Head of Apprenticeships at the PRCA. “Although PR and communications is traditionally a degree-heavy industry, we have seen time and time again through our delivery of the PR & Comms apprenticeship the benefits of offering an accessible career path. Offering the opportunity for individuals to build a solid foundation through formal training and assessment builds confidence, and confidence breeds excellence. The hope is that we can bridge the gap in our industry and equip the next generation with the practical skills and academic knowledge they need for a thriving PR profession. The revision of the apprenticeship standard is an important part of the puzzle.” 

Wessex Water is one of a number of companies who provided suggestions for shaping the new standard after previously taking on two public relations apprentices and offering them insight and building knowledge across a wide range of disciplines in PR, communications and digital.   

“My PR apprenticeship allowed me to start my career without having to go to university and it helped me develop my skills and gain experience in a number of areas,” explains Tom Thomson, who joined Wessex Water as a PR apprentice in 2017 and is still with the company in the PR department. “After completing it, I went on to become a Junior Content Writer and then, after a few years, I started a role as a Digital Content Editor. I now write content for a range of Wessex Water’s digital channels. The apprenticeship was an important part of my career. Without it, starting my career in the PR industry would have been a lot more difficult.” 

“We welcome the introduction of this new standard, which will provide the next generation of communications specialists with greater knowledge and experience,” said Lauren Mapstone, Social Media Manager at Wessex Water. “This will not only benefit companies and organisations, but importantly help develop future careers in public relations.” 

“At The JGA Group, we believe in the power of shared knowledge and skills, the apprenticeship pairs you with a dedicated industry trainer-coach-mentor who will be your guide, cheerleader and confidante,” comments Biddy Lall, MBE, Head of Curriculum at The JGA Group. “They’ll share their hard-won wisdom, provide personalised feedback, and open doors to professional networks.” 

To view the new standard, visit: https://www.instituteforapprenticeships.org/apprenticeship-standards/public-relations-and-communications-assistant-v1-1

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