by Tammie Harwin,
Apprenticeship Consultant

Whether you have ‘hard to fill’ vacancies, skills gaps, or an ageing workforce, apprenticeships are a workforce development ‘gift’ that you shouldn’t be ignoring.

I speak to so many businesses who immediately say “I can’t have an apprentice because I need someone who can already do the job or has skills”. But this argument just doesn’t stack up when you look at the facts. If you are an employer who struggles to fill skilled posts in your business, or have high turnover in a role – you have to ask yourself: ‘is it better to have someone in the role who is training to develop their skills alongside doing the job, or to have no one at all?’

Government research tells us that 80% of employers report significant increases in employer retention, with an impressive 92% saying that apprenticeships lead to a motivated and satisfied workforce.

Research proves that apprentices are more loyal to their employers and improve productivity. So once they have completed their apprenticeship they are more likely to committed to working for you longer term, and you have someone that already knows your business. And remember, apprentices don’t have to be 16-year-old school leavers. You can use an apprenticeship to up-skill someone with existing skills and experience to move onto the next stage, and meet your needs.

Not enough employers are thinking about apprenticeships as the fantastic workforce development tool they are, not only for attracting and recruiting new staff, but for up-skilling and rewarding your existing talent as well.

When I work with employers to plan their apprenticeship programmes we look at the shape and dynamics of their existing workforce. I use data and insights to understand where the ‘flash points’ are that you need to address in your business to continue to deliver, and ensure you have the talent pipeline you need from the future. 

This may be high churn or hard to fill roles as I mentioned, but also think about providing development opportunities for your talent – whether that’s developing your future leaders or providing professional qualification progression for your skilled staff.

You may also need to attract a more diverse workforce or bring young people into an ageing workforce. The vast range of apprenticeships available can help you address all of these issues, and provide a development pathway for your staff.

Once we’ve established apprenticeship are right for your business there are some common push backs:

  • ‘Apprenticeships are too difficult to sort out’
  • ‘There’s too much admin’
  • ‘We haven’t got time to support an apprentice’

Yes, there are some additional requirements of you as an employer, but the support required is really only what you should be providing to your staff anyway, and the benefits far outweigh the cost.

apprentice in office environment

Still not convinced?

Consider the funding available that you and your staff are missing out on…

If you are an apprenticeship levy payer (employers with a pay bill of over £3m a year) you will have a ready pot of money that only you can spend on apprenticeship training. If you don’t use it you loose it!

If you are not an apprenticeship levy payer (employers with a pay bill of over £3m a year) the government will pay for 95-100% of the training costs (depending on your business size).

Why wouldn’t you want to use these funds to invest in your workforce?

Maybe you’re a small business with limited training budget for your existing staff? Imagine being able to offer a Chartered Degree or MBA apprenticeship to your aspiring leaders? Maybe you have roles where your skilled staff are ‘poached’ elsewhere for better development opportunities – apprenticeships could offer that and retain those staff.

Apprenticeships are a vital tool in improving your employer brand now. A huge number of the top recruiting businesses offer a wide variety of apprenticeships, including degree apprenticeships. They know it’s a great way to attract talent.

The view of apprenticeships has changed, with many school leavers expecting good employers to have that as part of their talent programme.

Surely you’d be mad not consider apprenticeships as a way to develop your talent?