Since National Apprenticeship Week launched 10 years ago, apprenticeships have evolved significantly.
The annual event has raised the profile of the diverse apprenticeships that are on offer. According to the Department for Education, there were just 184,400 apprentice starters in 2006/7. By 2015/16 that had more than doubled to 509,400.
Despite apprenticeships becoming more popular, negative perceptions about their value still exist. Independent research that Centrica commissioned found that more than two-thirds of people do not view apprenticeships as the best starting point to reaching a senior position in their career.
This misconception is in stark contrast to the experience of 1,200 apprentices who are training at the British Gas Learning Hubs operated by Centrica around the country. When surveyed, more than 95% said their apprenticeship sets them up for a successful future.
Apprentices are a source of talent for our business and fundamental to our growth strategy. Many have built long-term careers with us and now hold management positions.
Apprenticeships at Centrica
High-quality apprenticeships are now available through initiatives like Trailblazers, where employers design an apprenticeship for their sector, defining the tailored skills that are needed for the role.
At Centrica we recognise the value in taking a leadership role in developing apprenticeship curriculums and we led the development of smart meter installation and gas engineering apprenticeship standards. We also worked alongside Boots to develop standards for customer service apprentices, and this relatively new apprenticeship programme is already making a tangible difference to our business.
The benefits for employers
With the right high-quality training in place, the opportunities for apprentices are limitless. There is also a strong business case for taking on apprentices.
According to new research from the Department of Education, 75% of SMEs that employ apprentices have reported an increase in productivity.
The results from our own customer service apprenticeship pilot show productivity is up 6%, while our Net Promoter Score (which measures customer satisfaction) levels increased by twenty points.
The benefits of apprenticeships have a positive impact on individuals, businesses and the wider economy, and the support available to employers.
Employing an apprentice represents a big commitment, but I hope that more employers explore how they can benefit from taking on apprentices and the positive impact this has on individuals and the wider economy.