Making apprenticeships work for your business

Written by
Rosi Prescott

06 Mar 2017

06 Mar 2017 • by Rosi Prescott

Apprenticeships have changed the educational landscape in Britain; levelling the playing field so that regardless of circumstance, everyone has the opportunity to succeed. No longer seen as a last resort for those who didn’t get into university, apprenticeships today proudly stand as a viable and credible alternative to higher education.

And, not only a means to effect change in tackling educational inequality, apprenticeships also add real value to the lives of those on such schemes, as well as to businesses and the wider economy. But we cannot talk about the benefits of apprenticeships in isolation – we need to do so in the context of the upcoming reforms and what these mean for businesses.

Reforming the system to reflect needs of employers

In October 2013, the Government announced it would be reforming the existing apprenticeship system to improve the quality and increase the quantity of the apprenticeships being delivered. Less than two years later, the Government made another announcement – it pledged to create three million apprenticeships by 2020 while investing up to £1.5 billion of public money a year in the national programme.

Fast forward another two years, and we are currently just weeks away from the introduction of the apprenticeship levy for businesses turning over more than £3 million a year. Levy-paying companies will receive an allowance of £15,000 which they can spend on apprenticeship training for new or existing staff of any age. If they don’t invest this money within a two year period, it will be returned to the Government to invest in apprenticeships elsewhere.

The levy, along with the introduction of new standards, seeks to give more control to employers over the schemes they offer. With this control, employers can ensure the training is delivered in a framework guaranteed to create fully-skilled workers trained for purpose.

So why should you, as an employer, hire an apprentice?

As an organisation set up by an apprentice, still standing and expanding 170 years on, you may think Central YMCA is somewhat biased in saying businesses that offer apprenticeships see a return on investment. So, don’t just take our word for it – here are the tangible benefits you can enjoy by offering apprenticeships:

A means to cut costs while retaining talent

Apprentices generally cost less than other employees so are a cost-effective way to recruit talent directly into your business – apprentices earn on the job while the government makes contributions to cover the cost of training. Also, by offering an apprenticeship scheme, you are four times more likely to enjoy improved employee retention – an attractive prospect for those employers trying to recruit from the UK’s competitive jobs market. And, given the apprenticeship levy will be mandatory for those businesses turning over £3 million or more, it makes sense to make use of the allowance to hire and train new talent, rather than lose the money. 

Increased productivity and motivation

Research has found that three-quarters of employers who offer apprenticeships report improved levels of productivity – with apprentices directly helping to increase output. What’s more, the National Apprenticeship Service has recorded a staggering 92% of employers believe apprenticeships have bolstered motivation and satisfaction within their workforce.

The wider economy

Beyond your business as a stand-alone entity, apprenticeships also create a return on investment for the wider economy, with the department for business, innovation and skills reporting that for every pound invested in level two apprenticeships, £26 is returned to the UK economy. A strong economy is good news for any business owner – particularly given the relative instability we face in gearing up to revoke our membership of the EU, likely losing access to the single market in the process.

Apprenticeships as an opportunity for real change

Clearly, employers reap many benefits from hiring apprentices, as does the economy, but when we widen the scope, we can see these schemes also provide benefits for society too.

In the face of growing educational inequality, and in a society where failing to succeed within the education system was found in our ‘World of Good’ report to be the top concern of young people, it’s important we’re providing real alternatives to formal education and giving everyone the chance to reach their full potential. 

At Central YMCA, we truly believe that apprenticeships are vital for the sustainability of the UK’s economy. Apprenticeships help to spur on economic productivity while plugging the skills gap and give everyone a chance to work towards a successful career - acting as a vehicle to improve social mobility along the way.

If you’re an employer and keen to learn more about apprenticeships, and the opportunities they provide, you can come along to our Apprenticeship Reforms Roadshow. More information can be found here.