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Could apprentices influence the Brexit referendum?

It’s National Apprenticeship Week (NAW) – a week that aims to highlight the skills gaps many British sectors are already facing and to encourage businesses to draw on talent from a larger array of sources. The Government is aiming to place apprenticeships within businesses’ growth strategies by highlighting the support available for those that choose to employ through this method. The scheme’s recent successes are impressive, with 19,800 apprenticeships filled in 2014/15, a 115% increase from the previous year.

Interestingly, National Apprenticeship Week has fallen amidst the Brexit debate. Critics of a British exit from the EU are emphasising the huge impact this could have on many pillars of our economy: construction, finance, law, education, etc. But will a focus on skills shortages via press coverage of NAW help to support either side of the debate? Of course the pro-EU side is likely to argue that leaving would mean closing our borders to international talent and increasing the difficulty of bringing in crucial expertise from overseas. Yet could the reminder that there are still some domestic solutions to the talent crisis serve as a nudge towards taking the leap and leaving the EU?

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PR itself is an international industry, with practitioners from all over the world working in the communications sector in the UK. What impact would a rejection of the Schengen Agreement have on our industry? Would PR in the UK flourish or suffer in the event of Brexit? Could we make better use of apprentices – and would an increase in their use plug any gap created by a shortage of foreign workers?

And there’s another angle – what role would PR play in assuring the world that Britain was ‘open for business’? It’s emerged that many businesses don’t actually have plans for a ‘leave’ verdict – could effective communications help to reassure stakeholders in the ensuing uncertainty of a post-EU Britain?

One thing is for sure, it is highly likely that both sides of the in/out campaign will use apprenticeships – as well as countless other factors – to make their argument. The next few months promise to be incredibly interesting and, whichever side of the debate you fall on, it is heartening to see apprenticeships being pushed to the fore. We should know – our PR apprentice is great!

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