5 Reasons to love the new apprenticeships

With only weeks to go before the introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy, the condensed timeframe for what are extremely complex and consequential changes to the further education system has left many feeling nervous. Nevertheless, these changes (the introduction of the levy itself, the change from frameworks to standards and the new funding methodology) are exciting and potentially revolutionary – so as it’s Valentine’s Day, we’d like to take a look at some of the reasons we LOVE the new apprenticeships.

1. They are intended to fill the skills gap and make it easier for industries to get the employees they need

A survey by CBI/Pearson in July 2015 showed that more than half of firms feared their growth would be held back by skills shortages. The pace of change is therefore largely driven by the urgency of the situation: as Katja Hall, CBI Deputy Director-General, said at the time: “The best way to plug the skills gaps and provide quality training is to speed up existing apprenticeships reforms already underway and encourage smaller firms to get involved.”

So, while there is a lot of hard work to be done to ensure that the changes deliver the intended results, what we’re looking at here is giving employers the capacity to create their own dream employees – filling the skills gap with higher quality training that’s matched to their specific needs.

2. They are supposed to help social mobility and offer opportunities to all

Next month we’ll see Skills Minister, Robert Halfon taking to the road to celebrate National Apprenticeship week. The theme this year is ‘ladder of opportunity’, highlighting how apprenticeships help people to ‘climb the career ladder and get on in the world of work.’ *

Of the projected £2.5bn Levy funding to be spent on Apprenticeships over 2019-20, £60m is earmarked for investment in training apprentices from the poorest areas of the country, and £150 extra a month per student will be given to training providers to support those with learning or other disabilities.

And higher apprenticeships are even more valuable...

Apprenticeships are a fantastic option for those who might otherwise be priced out of higher education, giving young people the chance to earn while they learn and of course to gain valuable work experience as well as vocational and/or academic qualifications. And all without incurring masses of student debt.

Apprenticeships are offered at a variety of levels, right up to Level 7 (equivalent to a Master’s degree), so are a great alternative route to traditional University education. Indeed, according to a study by ICM Research, employers in England rate qualified higher apprentices as 25% more employable than those who took an alternative route into work. **

3. If done well, they are an innovative and exciting approach to training that’s worthy of the 21st century

Let’s face it - even at the best and the biggest companies, training and development can be hit and miss. It often falls casualty to busy work schedules, and when it does happen, it can be piecemeal, generic and doesn’t necessarily result in a recognised qualification or accreditation.

Running an apprentice programme at your company gives you an opportunity to develop a recruitment, training and retention model that fits with your company values and gives you happy, dedicated, loyal members of staff - whether that’s by upskilling and rewarding existing employees or by bringing in fresh talent for you to develop.

There are some wonderful examples of existing apprenticeship programmes around to borrow ideas from especially in the tech and engineer sectors. Hosting provider UKFast***, for example, kicks off its apprenticeships with a team-building residential in the Welsh mountains. While telecommunications giant MediaCom rotates apprentices around different areas of the business, to help them find their true calling.****

21st century training for 21st century kids

Apprentices are most definitely NOT just for youngsters, it's a common misconception, and apprentices come from all age groups.

However, if you are taking on new young apprentices, you have an opportunity to think about what soft or transferable skills you want them to learn as well as the technical skills. And while there may be something of a cultural dissonance between your new 16-18 year olds and your older more-established members of staff, you might find that there’s an exciting opportunity for skills exchange.

For example, employees with more ‘life-experience’ (read older) can help teach young apprentices the appropriate way to talk to clients, or to behave in a business meeting. And in return the youngsters might have lots of great ideas for how to harness the potential of smart devices and the latest technologies.

Young people have lots of passion and energy when it comes to learning so make sure you capitalise on it. Maybe think ‘The Intern’ then dial it down a little for realism.

4. You don’t just get employees who have the right knowledge – you ensure you get the right cultural fit too

When you’re bringing in new apprentices to your business, you have a unique opportunity to mold them.

Help them to develop and grow as people and as industry specialists and you’ll end up with staff who have absorbed and embody your company ethos – and that also makes them exceptionally loyal.

5. It could end up saving you money in the long run

Apprenticeship schemes are an investment, and there’s no arguing with the fact that there are overheads. In addition to apprentice salaries, there’s the possibility of having to fund 10% of their training if you’re a SME that doesn’t have to pay the Levy, and if you’re running a large scheme, the set-up and maintenance costs can be substantial.

However, in the long run you could save thousands in advertising and recruitment costs and you’ll never have posts sitting vacant while you search for months for the right candidate – which of course is great for your productivity.

Plus, evidence from organisations with well-established apprenticeship schemes shows that retention is extremely high meaning you’ve got continuity and succession ensured. UKFast claims 100% retention, while MBDA Missile Systems estimate it at around 98% with many rising to management positions.**

What do you love about the new apprenticeships?

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