Are apprenticeships gaining popularity?

Terry Watts
CEO at Proskills
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Post date: Tuesday, 14th February 2012

As youth unemployment levels hit record highs and the government announces new schemes to help businesses boost their productivity and train their workforce, Terry Watts discusses the growing popularity of apprenticeships and their business benefits.

The word apprenticeship means many things to many people. For some it conjures up images of seven years indentured trade training, for others it means a highly visible TV show starring Sir Alan Sugar. To the canny employer however, it can and often does mean a number of additional benefits.

With an increasing ageing workforce across the process and manufacturing industry, there is a real danger that invaluable skills will be lost if there is not a process for experienced staff to pass on their years of knowledge. Apprenticeships, designed by employers to meet the needs of the industry, ensure business continuity. They provide opportunity for the transfer of skills, expertise and knowledge and ensure that current and future workforces learn the skills that work best for the business.

Apprenticeships are an excellent way for people to gain nationally recognised qualifications and workplace experience while getting paid at the same time.

Apprenticeships are work-based training programmes that allow people to earn and learn at the same time. They combine on and off the job training to ensure that learners are trained in the skills that are relevant to their work, delivering real returns to the bottom line, helping to improve competitiveness and productivity.

There is a common misconception that apprenticeships are for the younger generation but that is just not the case; they are a great way to retrain or up skill existing employees and, as youth unemployment soars and people are looking to learn new skills, apprenticeships are making a comeback.

A training scheme earlier this year launched by the government saw a near 900% increase in the number of apprenticeships begun by those aged 60 and, an increase of 18% for apprenticeships begun by 18-year-olds. The scheme was originally intended to ameliorate youth unemployment but when businesses are still recovering from the recession and there are still headlines of job losses and pay freezes, a scheme which allows businesses to train and up skill their existing staff is only common sense.

However, the government has now announced its plans for growth and ministers are taking action to make it easier for companies to take on apprentices by providing a financial incentive to help the smallest firms recruit apprentices and ensuring that the quality of apprenticeships is continually improved.

To some businesses this may not be appealing. To take on an inexperienced employee when times are tough, surely isn't sensible and not worth the time when all your resources should be in business development. But the truth is apprenticeships offer fantastic opportunities for every party and are available to every industry and occupation.

On the other hand, there are some businesses who want to do their own training in a way that is unique to their business and even a tailor-made apprenticeship sometimes doesn't fully fit the criterion. In many cases, this leads to employees receiving training that isn’t recognised outside of that company and means businesses are potentially missing out on public support and funding. How can employers get the best of both worlds? By expressing their opinions and coming together as one coherent voice. This is often the only way to what employers really need from government.

Despite the financial uncertainty, there is support available for companies who want to invest in their business and in the skills of their employees to drive growth. We need companies to step forward and play an active role in shaping their future workforces. Take charge of your business, your industry, your training and come together now. As your Sector Skills Council we are here to support you.

This article first appeared in Business Today, Issue 5. To read the entire publication, click the ebook.

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