This week is National Apprenticeship Week 2020. It is an annual celebration of the benefits of apprenticeships in the UK, with events being run up and down the country.
Apprenticeships are being embraced more than ever by young people wanting to ‘earn and learn’ on the job. For these young people, it's a great foundation to build the skills they'll need now and in the future.
But there are still many businesses who remain sceptical of apprenticeships. The ‘not for me’ mindset plagues many businesses who see the additional costs and time associated with training an apprentice as a burden on their resource.
Or perhaps, they are yet to recognise the benefits of vocational training when historically so much importance has been placed on having a degree.
This year's National Awareness Week campaign aims to encourage employers to look beyond traditional hiring routes and see the value apprentices bring to their workforce. The benefits for small businesses are vast; apprentices can help you fill your skills gap, improve productivity, and revitalise your business.
Plus, if like most small businesses, your annual pay bill is less than £3 million, you don’t need to pay the Apprenticeship Levy.
Here, we explore in more detail how your small business could benefit from an apprenticeship scheme.
Fill your skills gaps
If your small business is being hampered by a mismatch between the skills you need and the skills available in your local area, you’re not alone. With shortages in labour and skills and with few candidates on the market, finding the right people, with the right skills, in the right place, is often hard to achieve.
But by recruiting and training apprentices, you can develop people in a way that promotes the specific skills required by your business and industry. Employers now have the capacity to design their own apprenticeship standards so that they can mould training programmes to meet their skills gaps.
Another option is to offer apprenticeships to your existing staff as a way of training them on the skills your business needs.
Improve staff loyalty and retention
As well as filling your skills gap, apprentice schemes are also likely to bring benefits in terms of staff retention. People who feel their employers have invested in their training and development are often more engaged and committed to the business and motivated to stay for the long term. This applies to both training new apprentices and training your existing employees.
Recruiting and training apprentices can even improve your company’s productivity levels. The average graduated apprentice increases business productivity by £214 per week, according to the National Apprenticeship Service. Apprentice employers have also seen increased productivity in their existing workforce.
Having apprentices within the team can create a buzz in the office as other employees see the benefits they bring. Many companies have found that bringing in a younger cohort of talent with fresh enthusiasm and a new perspective has enhanced problem solving and idea generation across their business.
Likewise, apprentices can be used to support more experienced workers who have chosen to change direction and pursue a different career path. These people can come from all kinds of background and will bring with them a breadth of experience that could benefit your business.
What’s more, the presence of apprentices also gives existing staff new opportunities to supervise and mentor people, which helps them with their own professional development. All this buzz can have a significant and positive impact on morale.
A cost-effective training option
Hiring an apprentice might seem like a costly - and long-winded - way to fill a position compared with hiring a candidate who already has the skills and experience you need. But apprentices under the age of 19 or in the first year of their apprenticeship are entitled to a minimum level of pay under the national minimum wage (NMW). This can work as an advantage for a small business who cannot afford to pay an experienced person.
By the same token, apprenticeship schemes can be an affordable way to upskill your existing employees. As a small business with an annual pay bill of less than £3million, you will only need to contribute 10% towards the cost of the apprenticeship and the government will pay the remaining 90%.
The skills gap is, of course, one of the biggest challenges for businesses today. And the more open we become to apprenticeship schemes, the more we can improve our internal skill sets, capabilities and future-proof our businesses.
But the benefits go beyond plugging the skills gap. Apprenticeship schemes can improve productivity, staff retention and morale; all things that will help your business to thrive.
Apprenticeships can be for both new or existing employees. They can be used to support anyone from school leavers to experienced professionals looking for a career change, to the people that are already sitting within your company as loyal members of your team.
At the Bedfordshire Chamber of Commerce, we are committed to lobbying government for an apprenticeship system that works for all and ensuring businesses make the most of the opportunities presented by the Apprenticeship Levy. If you'd like to learn more about the potential opportunities for your business, please get in touch.