The Market Research Executive Apprenticeship

Significant Insights exists to champion and support junior researchers and to attract talent from all backgrounds to our global sector. And so we sat down with Suzanne Hodnett, who leads the tutoring team at Swarm Training, the MRS official apprenticeship training provider for the Market Research Apprenticeship Standard. Suzanne worked closely with the MRS, and a diverse group of agencies, to develop the original training materials required to ensure high quality learning is on offer.

For even more information on the Market Research Executive Apprenticeship: Apprenticeship – Market Research Executive | Market Research Society (

Suzanne, what is the Market Research Apprenticeship programme?

The best way I can answer that is to first explain a little bit about the Government Apprenticeships programme overall and how it works.  Apprenticeships are certainly not a new thing but have always been traditionally associated with manual professions and practical assessment. Modern day apprenticeships are much broader and available in most industries now.  They can be at any level of assessment from GCSE to Masters Degree opening up a multitude of opportunities for school leavers and older apprentices alike.  In fact, you can do an apprenticeship at any age from 16+.

Learners are able to work in their chosen profession whilst being given leave by their employer to study for 6 hours a week during normal office hours.  In that time they meet with their tutor to study the necessary knowledge criteria needed for their job and then continue studying in their own time following a programme of guided learning and training tasks.  During the other days of the week, their employer promises to help them put their theory learning into practice on the job to gain hands on experience, secure their understanding and skill and, of course, help the employer get the job done!  It is even more than that though.  As tutors, myself and my team are guided by the Government programme to ensure that the learner is also given support for their own Personal Development needs including understanding behaviour and professionalism in the workplace, time management and personal organisation, presentation skills, mental health, personal safeguarding, healthy lifestyles and general wellbeing.

It is a fantastic programme and the Market Research Apprenticeship has now joined the arena offering a Level 4 (Foundation Degree) to apprentices working in the industry. The curriculum is very comprehensive and teaching includes: a broad foundation knowledge of the industry, Primary and Secondary research, Quantitative and Qualitative methods and the associated detail, Project Management, Statistical Analysis, as well as learning about Client Relationships and Reporting.  They are assessed from day 1 through written assignments and case studies looking at their theoretical knowledge as well as evidence of their skills in practice.  At End Point Assessment they must deliver a comprehensive work project showcasing the knowledge, skills and behaviours they have learned, then preparing an associated report, giving a presentation and, finally, participating in an interview with a professional Assessor.  It really is a great qualification to have which is nationally recognised and awarded by the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education.

And why are apprenticeships important?

It is fair to say that University is not for everyone and many people these days need to work and earn as they learn.  Not only that but, having done a degree myself at a time when Apprenticeships were not available for most industries, I came out of University hoping there would be a job for me, I struggled to get one and then of course, had to start at the bottom anyway because I didn’t have the real world industry experience and practical ability.  For young people, an apprenticeship allows them to get straight onto the career ladder and connect their theory and practical learning in real time.  Once they complete their apprenticeship, they are already in employment doing the job they wanted and are straight away into the next stage of career progression.  For those who have been in the industry a little while and came to where they are purely on the job, they are often missing crucial theory elements which have been holding them back from new challenges and, indeed, from promotion.  The Apprenticeship for them becomes a means of upskilling to open those doors.

So what benefits are there for employers here?

The benefits to employers are huge.  In a time when attracting the right talent is becoming more and more challenging and competitive, employing an apprentice allows the employer to invest in a person from the ground up and mould them to fit neatly into their team and individual business culture.  Not only that but their tutor does the work to teach them what they need to know and the employer just has to show them how to use it.

In year 1, the initial wage is very manageable for the organisation whilst they are learning and doesn’t need to be reviewed until year 2 when their training is really starting to pay off so it gives the employer lots of breathing space financially whilst the apprentice gets up to speed.  Even 95% of the training fees are covered by Government funding.

As Market Research professionals ourselves, myself and my team of tutors are able to pass on industry leading techniques and best practices to the apprentices so they can bring them back to the workplace.  Alongside that, the enthusiasm of an apprentice can be infectious!  They usually come with an injection of fresh ideas, enthusiasm and diversity.

Investing time, support and encouragement into an apprentice often builds long term loyalty and engagement which breeds job satisfaction that leads to much better retention rates for a business. In turn, this gives rise to lower recruitment costs and minimal team disruption. I’d really encourage anyone who is considering it to speak to any of our employers who will be able to tell you in real terms what it is like having an apprentice and the true benefits they bring.

Thanks for that! Having supported market research for some time now, do you have any advice for our sector?

The Market Research industry is no stranger to operating through market turbulence and social change but it is fair to say that the world has experienced greater turbulence in recent years than we have seen for a long time and accurate trustworthy data is more valuable than ever. Coping with and responding well to the demands of this era in Market Research will absolutely rely on great skills and training being maintained and passed on.  We all have a responsibility to train the next generation of Market Researchers, not just to ensure that what we have learned keeps going and can be used by others but also to encourage innovation and progression of techniques for ongoing improvement in response to the new demands we face.

As a tutor, my experience of working with the apprentices we have taught so far is encouraging and exciting!  In so many ways, their drive for Market Research and thirst for knowledge is a privilege to work with and I wonder how many other candidates we may never see in this great industry because they didn’t know about it as a career.  That is so often the story.  A number of them have literally said to me “before doing this Apprenticeship I didn’t know Market Research was a thing”.  Fortunately for those apprentices, they just happened to see the job advertisement and thought they would give it a go.  We need to be louder about research as a career and make it much easier to discover.  The more apprentices the industry can support now, the more we can secure that future talent and diversity we need for the next generation of the industry before we find we have a gap and other industries, shouting louder than us, have claimed them and made them their own.

If anyone would like to know more about employing an Apprentice, we would be very happy to talk it all through with you and answer your questions.  We can even do all of the recruitment for you to help you find just the right person for your team. 

Significant Insights fully supports this programme! Please do get in touch with Suzanne or her colleague, Paul, in Swarm’s recruitment team for an informal chat. (Lead for the Market Research Apprenticeship) (Head of Recruitment)