Can businesses really afford to ignore apprenticeships?

06 March 2019 -

Apprenticeship myths

The director of the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) tells us why all managers should back apprenticeships

Guest blogger Keith Smith

2019 is shaping up to be a truly exciting year for apprenticeships.

Already it’s had a great start, with the launch of the new apprenticeship ‘Fire It Up’ campaign in January – which focuses on changing the ‘not-for-me’ mindset towards apprenticeships – and is making a significant splash across TV, billboards, digital and social channels.

Apprenticeships have evolved significantly over the last few years. Today, there are many high-quality apprenticeships available covering many different professions, including a number of highly popular management and leadership apprenticeships. The move to employer-designed apprenticeships has allowed employers to develop apprenticeships that meet their needs. The quality has increased too, and the introduction of higher and degree apprenticeships – including the Chartered Manager Degree Apprenticeship - has broadened the cohort of people completing them.

An impressive 96% of employers with apprentices say they have experienced at least one benefit from taking on apprentices, and most can count at least eight benefits.

Here are four, applicable to every employer:

THE BENEFITS OF APPRENTICESHIPS

1. Apprenticeships help you meet your workforce objectives

Management apprenticeships provide an opportunity for career focused development, while at the same time addressing specific skills needs in the workplace. The latest CMI research shows that 89% of management apprentices say their management apprenticeship is enhancing their career prospects, and 92% say the apprenticeship is helping them develop the skills they need to be more productive at work.

There are several workforce challenges affecting businesses; the skills gap, an ageing workforce, low productivity and lack of diversity to name but a few. Apprenticeships are a tried-and-tested approach to tackling these and other workforce issues, as we know from working with employers across many sectors. Over two-thirds (69%) of employers have seen improved staff retention and more than three-quarters (78%) report improved productivity and staff morale (73%).

2. Apprenticeships boost creative thinking

Apprentices in management roles can bring new innovative ideas and approaches to help drive the business forward. As staff become better skilled and gain greater understanding of the wider business throughout their apprenticeship, confidence and independent thinking will develop.

3. Apprenticeships sharpen your values

Increasingly customers, clients and employees are asking more of businesses. More people want to be associated with businesses that have a greater purpose, beyond profit making. Having apprentices in your business is a great way to boost your company image, allowing you to standout from your competitors.

Read more: CMI research The What, The Why and The How of Purpose

4. Apprenticeships boost your bottom line

All said, if you are a business owner or head of finance, the bottom line is still paramount. For employers that do not pay the Apprenticeship Levy, 90% of training costs for apprentices are government-funded. And for those who do pay the Levy, it’s easy to open an account on the apprenticeship service to access your funds and pay directly for apprenticeship training – more than 90% of large employers have already done so. There are also savings for apprentice employers from lower recruitment costs, as well as indirect financial returns to consider. For example, a quarter of consumers are willing to pay more for products from a business they see as socially responsible.

APPRENTICESHIPS ARE CHANGING

There has never been a better or more exciting time to consider apprenticeships, including management apprenticeships, and I would urge every employer to leave behind any preconceptions they might have – and take a fresh look. Speak to other apprentice employers in your region, or training providers, and hear their experience first-hand.

National Apprenticeship Week runs until 8 March. This week sees industry stakeholders and employers celebrate apprenticeships and their impact on organisations across England. Last year, the initiative was record-breaking: more than 33,000 people engaged with 10,000 talks and 780 events across the country.

This year, our collective goal for the Week is to shift awareness of apprenticeships into action, encouraging more employers to start their own apprenticeship programmes and more people across the country to consider doing an apprenticeship. The theme for the Week is ‘Blaze a Trail’ and we are calling on employers to take the lead and showcase how apprenticeships bring new energy into their businesses.

To find more about apprenticeships, please visit: www.apprenticeships.gov.uk. The CMI provides management training and apprenticeships.

Keith Smith is apprenticeships director for the Education and Skills Funding Agency

Image: Shutterstock

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