During National Apprenticeship Week (8-14 February 2021), we take a look at how beneficial apprenticeships can be for both the employee and the employer, as well as the impacts of COVID-19 on apprenticeships and some key statistics in recent surveys by the In-Comm Training Barometer
An apprenticeship is a real job where the apprentice learns, gains experience, and gets paid. They are an employee with a contract of employment and holiday leave and by the end of an apprenticeship, they will have the right skills and knowledge needed not only for their chosen career, but also for the business they are working in. It can take between one and 6 years to complete an apprenticeship depending on which one they choose, what level it is and their previous experience.
An apprenticeship can be funded from contributions made by the government and their employer. On an apprenticeship, the apprentice is employed to do a real job while studying for a formal qualification – usually for one day a week either at a college or training centre. What the apprentice will learn depends on the role that they are training for. However, apprentices in every role follow an approved study programme, which means they gain a nationally recognised qualification at the end of your apprenticeship. Below are the levels of apprenticeship and their equivalent educational levels:
Level Equivalent educational level
Intermediate 2 GCSE
Advanced 3 A level
Higher 4,5,6 and 7 Foundation degree and above
Degree 6 and 7 Bachelor’s or master’s degree
The Benefits of Hiring Apprentices
Apprenticeships provide skilled workers for the future.
Apprenticeship training helps new and existing employees to improve their skills, which will benefit the company in the long term; the skills developed are matched to the company’s future needs. This will help fill any skills gaps and allow the business to source future managers and leaders from within.
Apprenticeships increase staff loyalty and retention.
Employees who have been trained in-house tend to be highly motivated, committed to the company and supportive of its business objectives.
An apprenticeship encourages employees to think of their job as a career and to stay with the company for longer, which reduces recruitment costs.
Offering an apprenticeship to an existing employee shows that you are happy to invest in their future and see them as an integral part of the workforce.
According to data from the National Apprenticeship Service, 92% of companies that have taken on apprentices believe this leads to a more motivated and satisfied workforce and 80% have seen a significant increase in employee retention.
Apprenticeships increase a company’s bottom line.
Investing in staff trained through apprenticeships has a positive effect on a company’s finances, making it more competitive.
As companies receive funding for each apprentice they take on, it means they do not have to spend as much to recruit new staff.
Apprenticeships free up existing staff time
Delegating some of the more basic jobs to an apprentice allows them to learn and take responsibility, while freeing up the time of your more experienced staff. Better allocation of work should make your business more productive.
Apprentices can revitalise a company
Apprentices often bring a fresh approach and a positive attitude into the workplace, which can have a knock-on effect on existing staff. By embarking on an apprenticeship, they are showing themselves to be willing to learn and can bring new ideas into the company.
As apprentices come from a range of backgrounds, they can bring fresh insight into your business activities.
A company that is willing to invest in people by supporting apprenticeships is showing a positive approach to Corporate Social Responsibility, which is good for attracting both customers and future high-quality staff.
The effects of COVID-19 on Apprenticeships
As we can see in the table above, all sectors listed have seen a decrease in the number of starting apprenticeships, with service enterprises and hospitality and catering being most severely affected. Industries such as healthcare, ICT and business management have suffered less, and you can see the reasons being that they are either filled with key workers or they are jobs that continue in socially distanced environments.
Covid-19 is having a dramatic impact on the future of vocational learning according to the latest In-Comm Training Barometer, which revealed that 64% of companies have failed to invest in new apprentices over the last twelve months. The survey revealed a worrying 51% of cuts to training budgets and more than half of firms (53%) postponing plans to take on young workers as they adapt to the challenges presented by the virus.
Following the Prime Minister’s announcement on 4 January 2021 confirming a new national lockdown, training providers, employers and EPAOs must ensure that training and assessment takes place remotely. There are exceptional arrangements for training and assessment for vulnerable young apprentices and for a small number of apprentices for whom some face-to-face training is essential to enable them to prepare for and undertake their end-point-assessment. Even before the latest lockdown on 4th January 2021, many industries have been battling against the government implemented restrictions. Industries such as hairdressing, child-care, and catering struggle to function with tough social distancing laws, therefore making it near impossible to spend quality, face-to-face time with apprentices learning on the job.
Fortunately, support from the Government has enabled 90% of employers to retain their apprentices, whilst 72% of management teams have been able to continue training staff. However, the financial strain from the pandemic is preventing businesses from hiring new employees. The In-Comm Training Barometer shows that there is still interest from secondary school children to go down the path of apprenticeships, as they view vocational learning as being just as beneficial as going to University but there aren’t enough businesses offering them in this current economic climate.
Consider how apprenticeships could add value to your business
Conduct a skills audit of your business for the present and future
Research funding available to your business
Consider whether the Kickstart Scheme could work for your organisation