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19th Apr, 2022

Christy Houghton
Christy Houghton
Job Title
Social Media Content Executive

With the government raising the prospect of reform to support business investment in skills, we examine the part that apprenticeships can play in upskilling and reskilling professionals.

“The government will consider whether further intervention is needed to encourage employers to offer the high-quality employee training the UK needs,” according to Chancellor Rishi Sunak in his recent Spring Statement.

While there are many types of training that organisations can offer, apprenticeships are a key way of transferring skills to new entrants in a sector.

How do apprenticeships work?

Apprenticeships are paid roles where you hire someone to gain skills and learn as they go – spending 20% of their working hours doing classroom-based learning, usually at a college or university. At the end, your apprentice will gain a formal qualification. Apprenticeships can take anywhere between one and six years to complete and can go from level two to degree-level qualifications.

While the most common apprenticeships are vocational, covering roles in sectors such as construction, engineering, beauty, and even legal services, apprenticeships can be implemented within any sector, and many employers hope that more professions can be accessed through apprenticeships.

All that is required from a candidate is a GCSE or equivalent in maths and English, (some employers will offer this as part of the apprenticeship) and for them to have lived in the UK for the last three years. No experience or qualification is needed to become an apprentice. This gives you the opportunity to train them from scratch and mould them into your perfect employee.

The current system in the UK requires some employers to pay into an apprenticeship levy.

This applies to businesses that:

  • have an annual pay bill over £3 million or

  • are connected to any companies or charities for Employment Allowance purposes and have a combined annual pay bill of more than £3 million.

These companies must pay 0.5% monthly, but they can claim back up to £5,000 per apprentice, with amount depending on the cost of the apprentice to the employer.

Business benefits of apprenticeships

Organisations who hire apprentices gain a talented professional with greater longevity and potentially better performance levels than other employees.

Reed’s Head of Apprenticeships, Christine Holland, says: “Apprenticeships today are often seen as something to do when you leave school with no qualifications, which it can be, but it is simply another way to allow more people to enter the workforce. In fact, the average age of our own apprentices at Reed is about 36.

“It is almost like providing training to your current employees, but it is more rigorous in terms of how it’s assessed, how performance is measured, and the level of support apprentices are provided with. Each apprentice must be evaluated by a designated and qualified apprenticeship partner, who supports them along the way.”

Christine has found that apprentices frequently outperform their full-time colleagues and are more likely to stay within a company for longer. Not only is it good for retention to have a scheme that supports employees’ learning, “it’s also good for attraction,” she argues, “because, say you have a small business and you offer apprenticeships, but the one down the road doesn’t, jobseekers are more likely to join the company that offers apprenticeships.”

Investment in development and career progression is a highly attractive benefit that employers can offer, which also saves them money in the long run. Therefore, in a candidate-short and jobs-rich market, employers can implement an apprenticeship scheme to optimise their offering, improving interest in their roles and engagement with their company.

What’s next for apprenticeships?

Employers have been calling for changes to aspects of the scheme, including restrictions on what they can claim for such as wages, travel and accommodation expenses. Christine shared her hope for level two apprenticeships (GCSE or equivalent) to be offered by more employers, since it’s “harder to get into work in the first place than it is to progress”.

In the UK, apprenticeships still have some way to go to catch up to other countries when it comes to uptake. Low interest in apprenticeships might be a result of the existing stigma and a lack of understanding and awareness of its benefits to professionals who can earn while they learn.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak told the House of Commons: “We lag international peers in adult technical skills. Just 18% of people aged 25-64 hold vocational qualifications, a third lower than the OECD average.”

The government has said it will provide more detail on the review of apprenticeships in its Autumn Budget and that data on the scheme will be released in June.

If you’re looking for the perfect candidate to become your company’s next apprentice, contact your nearest Reed office.