An apprenticeship combines hands-on work with the opportunity to train and gain qualifications. It is a paid role (a real job within the company) with 20% of the apprentices’ time being set aside for off-the-job learning. An apprenticeship must also last at least 12 months [1]. It’s often thought that apprenticeships are only for students, as an alternative to university education, however, people at different stages in their career can in fact take up a position as an apprentice.

The government introduced an Apprenticeship Levy on 6th April 2017 to make taking on apprentices more appealing for businesses and so increase the number of available apprentice roles in the jobs market. The levy is funded by UK employers with an employee pay bill of over £3 million. The levy is charged at a rate of 0.5% of an employer’s pay bill and each employer gets an allowance of £15,000 to offset against their levy payment [2]. This means levy-paying companies can reclaim a portion of the levy payment through hiring their own apprentices.

The aim of the levy to increase the number of people taking up apprenticeships was based on the numerous benefits to employers and individuals of learning specific skills whilst also working full-time. Certain vocations and careers were deemed to be better approached through apprenticeships than say, through university education, and so the government set an ambitious target to create 3 million more apprenticeships in the UK by 2020.

As it stands, however, the intake statistics [3] are not as positive as the government would have hoped. However, there have still been some good progress in apprentice intake numbers. Going by a report [4] in the Financial Times, whilst not achieving the 3 million target, the number of apprentices in the UK has at least grown by half since 2017. So, what are the benefits for employers as well as workers in being part of this initiative?

Staff retention

By taking on apprentices, you’re hiring employees who will be learning an array of new skills and developing these on the job. Apprentices tend to be more loyal than non-apprentices [5] and this is likely due to the appreciation of the investment the company has made in them.

Filling skill gaps
As the training and development are decided by you the employer, you can tailor and mould the skill set of your new apprentices to fill any specific skill gaps your business currently has. You’ll be hiring new employees whose value to the business increases rapidly as they learn new skills.

Quick return on investment
The government estimates that companies can recoup their investment within one or two years [6] and the Apprenticeship Levy makes this even more likely and affordable.

Future-proofing your workforce
Whilst apprenticeships are not solely for young people, it is often a popular route for school-leavers as an alternative to mounting up thousands in student debt by attending university. By hiring school-leavers as apprentices you’ll be setting up your business for the future by taking on young professionals who should be motivated and enthusiastic at the start of their careers and develop rapidly going forward.

However, it is important to consider that apprenticeships aren’t just for the young. Almost anyone over the age of 16 can apply for an apprenticeship and take a step towards building or enhancing their career. An existing employee can also be an apprentice, giving you the opportunity to develop the skills of your existing workforce.

[1] http://www.apprenticeshipguide.co.uk/what-is-an-apprenticeship-2/

[2] https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/apprenticeship-levy/apprenticeship-levy

[3] https://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/news/apprenticeship-levy-latest-government-miss-target-2020-numbers-fall-uk-cmi-survey-a8240361.html

[4] https://www.ft.com/content/171a2b64-bf31-11e8-8d55-54197280d3f7

[5] https://www.acttraining.org.uk/news/2016/09/15/top-10-benefits-of-employing-apprentices/

[6]https://www.acas.org.uk/index.aspx?articleid=5910#4%20reasons%20why%20apprenticeships%20can%20boost%20your%20business

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