National Apprenticeship Week is a great opportunity to celebrate apprentices nation-wide. Apprenticeships are great for personal development, business and bring great benefits to the national economy. Yet there has been a 28% decrease in apprenticeship starts between the 2017/18 and the 2016/7 academic year.
As we discussed in a recent thought-leadership piece, ‘Making apprenticeships work for all’, it might be caused by a failure of the system or due to an outdated stigmatisation of apprenticeships. A very concerning finding from the paper was that from that 28% decrease in starts, there was a greater decrease among people under 19-year-olds (6% decrease since the previous year) and among L2 and L3 qualifications (9% decrease). This means that apprenticeships are increasingly being used for retraining workers at higher levels (49% increase) and managerial positions.
We should, of course, encourage the growth of higher level and degree apprenticeships, but we also need to promote growth in apprenticeships at lower levels and catering for a younger workforce. We need to reach all parts of the system and to continue advocating for the ever-so-needed delivery of apprenticeships at all levels. Below, we explain just a few of the many benefits of apprenticeships to individuals, businesses and the country.
Apprenticeships enable people to combine work and study by mixing work experience with classroom learning. It gives learners the opportunity to learn while they work and earn while they learn, putting them in a great position for career development. During apprenticeships, learners gain a nationally recognised qualification which can range from functional skills (level 2) to academic qualifications (level 5). This means, that anyone, with any sort of background, will be able to gain skills and experience at an appropriate level. Apprenticeships empower anyone to gain technical skills in their sector of interest and develop transferable skills that are highly valued by employers. Apprenticeships are an incredible opportunity for people to start a career, reskill or develop in their field of interest in a cost-effective manner. Apprenticeships are either fully or partially funded by the government, and apprentices earn money during the apprenticeship, making it a sustainable way of learning and developing. Apprenticeships improve the prospects of many people to earn better wages and secure long-term employment, making them a great opportunity for young and older people alike!
Businesses also gain great benefits from apprenticeships. Firstly, it enables employers to make the most of government funding. If they are levy payers, they can use their funds for apprenticeship delivery and if they are non-levy payers, they can share the cost of apprenticeship training with the government. Apprenticeships are also a cost-effective manner of recruiting, especially when reskilling the workforce. Rather than employing new staff, reskilling is a great way to ensure that the organisation has capable personnel. Apprenticeships are also a great way to motivate existing employees as it helps them develop their skills over the years. When training new apprentices, it is also very beneficial because they will learn the exact skills needed for the business. Employers can develop well-trained, highly qualified staff adding value to the organisation. Apprenticeships are a great way to boost productivity which can have major long-term gains for the competitivity of the company.
Apprenticeships also bring major benefits to the national economy by closing the skills gap and making the economy more productive. Due to a shortage of workers in trades, apprentices play a key role in closing the skills gap in the country. Apprentices programmes are developed in collaboration between providers and employers that enable the learner to develop a comprehensive and full-encompassing skills set that matches the needs of the economy. As apprentices are trained by employers in the sector, they develop the skills that the specific sector needs and gain valuable first-hand knowledge of the sector. Additionally, apprenticeships also bring a tangible benefit to the UK’s economy. A 2014 research revealed that apprenticeships contributed £34 billion to the UK, a figure that included gains to the economy from higher wages, business profits, reduction in employment benefits and benefits to organisations. Apprenticeships have a knock-on effect on the economy that enables employers and the local economy to gain long and short-term benefits.
As I have laid out above, the advantages of apprenticeships at all levels are undeniable. Their benefits scope from individual to business, to the national economy, so it is crucial to continue campaigning for them. Through campaigns like the National Apprenticeship Week, we are already advocating and facing the challenge of stigmatisation and delivery levels of apprenticeships. However, there are still systematic challenges entrenched in policies like the apprenticeship levy that need to be revoked. The Collab Group will continue advocating for these changes to make sure that apprenticeships receive all the support and recognition that they deserve.
To read our thought leadership piece on the challenges of the apprenticeship system, follow this link: http://collabgroup.co.uk/system/resources/download_files/000/000/033/original/Collab_WorkForAllReport_Nov18_V5_final.pdf?1543912694