Apprenticeships – Leading the Way in Learning

If you imagine yourself as a budding futurologist predicting fast growth sectors over the next 5-10 years, how likely is it that you would place apprenticeship training in your top five? I suspect not that likely. However, if your style of futurology is based upon reading the ‘signs’ then the evidence is both widely accessible and very visible.

Did you know that in the last parliament just over two million people went through apprenticeship training and in the current parliament the government has made a firm commitment to deliver three million more, virtually 50% growth! Not only that, the government has also ensured they can fund their pledge by introducing an Apprenticeship Levy (from April 2017). The current cost of apprenticeships in England is around £1.5 billion pa and the new apprenticeship Levy (essentially a mandated tax imposed on large businesses) will pass that marker at a gallop, raising in the region of £2.5 billion. More than enough, one would suspect, to cover their ambition.

The government, therefore, has both the means and the opportunity. So, what is their motive? Well, this too is founded on some pretty meaty research. For example, 72% of businesses surveyed for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (by Cebr) stated that apprentices had improved product and service quality, while 68% said that apprentices had improved productivity. They further suggest that hiring apprentices brings additional benefits, such as improved staff morale, staff retention and organisational reputation. When you wrap this up into a single value, Cebr estimate that the net economic gain from apprenticeships in a single year is around £2 billion. That represents a significant return on investment in anyone’s money.

So, apprentices are good news for business but essentially they are focused on the individual so everyone’s a potential winner. Apprenticeship training has a very practical and meaningful focus and a core strength of the programme; the training is delivered in tandem with full time work and therefore fully embraces the maxim of ‘learn while you earn’. They are aligned to the job that you do so not abstract, philosophical or theoretical; apprenticeship training is practical, real and relevant. Yes, the training improves knowledge and skills as say a University or College course. But it is applied training delivered in the context of a live occupational role. It therefore offers supplementary benefits.

A survey by Leisure-net in collaboration with Leisure Industry Week found that Leisure and Fitness employers valued work experience as the most important attribute for a school leaver when applying for a job. The survey revealed that work experience was considered the most important quality by 47% of respondents compared to just 15% of respondents saying that academic qualifications were the most important. This survey is illustrative of many in industry who champion real life training and supports the government’s confidence in placing apprenticeships at the heart of their skills agenda.

Apprenticeship opportunities exist for virtually every occupation and sector, from banking and commerce to hospitality, social care, retail or butchery. The training usually involves 1-2-1 teaching, is a minimum of 12 months, at no cost to the individual and always supported by a trainer who has both experience and expertise in the sector. It’s like having your own personal coach for a year to grow your knowledge pool, hone your work skills, improve your qualifications and place you on a career journey. Apprenticeships are available for any level from first role positions, through to senior management; there are even degree apprenticeships ever growing in popularity and availability.

In summary, it is important to note that this commentary is not to dissuade young people from taking up academic and vocational pursuits through Universities and Colleges, quite the reverse, as they offer significant benefits and opportunities. This blog merely highlights a much valued alternative to traditional routes and acts as a testament to the skilled professionals that work day in day out, slightly under the radar, supporting the development of individuals and having such a positive impact on business performance.



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