Why it’s time to look again at Apprenticeships

According to figures from the National Apprenticeship Service (NAS), these are good times for apprenticeship training. An ICM survey for National Apprenticeship Week suggested that 44% of businesses plan to take on an apprentice in the next 5 years – up from 36% a year ago.

This is certainly good news for NAS and all of us who believe in the value of Apprenticeship training. But the fact remains, on this data, that more than half of businesses are NOT considering taking on an apprentice in the next 5 years – and we should be asking: “Why not?”

One of the reasons often picked up by our Employer Partnerships team at City College Norwich is the perception that it is a complex and burdensome process to employ and train an apprentice. Of course there is, unavoidably, some paperwork involved at the outset – the employer is after all taking on a new employee into their business – but it is nowhere near as onerous as some imagine.

Good training providers will take care to ensure that the Apprenticeship meets the employer’s exact needs and this does require some initial discussion and agreement. But once this is in place the process is a straightforward one. A successful Apprenticeship is all about developing the apprentice in line with the business’s requirements, assisted by an assessor, with this training being tied closely to the particular workplace and role.

The fact that many employers come back to take on subsequent apprentices after their first experience provides anecdotal evidence, at least, that the process really isn’t so difficult. According to the NAS survey, among the 43% of employers stating that they are now more likely to offer an Apprenticeship, one third said that this was because it is now easier to employ apprentices.

Another reservation that holds back some employers from taking on an apprentice is a feeling that it does not allow as much control over the training process as they would like. A good Apprenticeship, however, is all about putting the needs of the business at the forefront – with the training tailored to their business needs – so that the apprentice is developed to continue with the firm and make a valuable contribution beyond the Apprenticeship.

Forthcoming changes in the way Apprenticeships are funded will put employers even more firmly in control. From 2016-17, Apprenticeship funding will go directly to employers, with this purchasing power giving businesses even greater scope to ensure that the training really does meet their needs.

Moreover, across sectors, there is now even greater employer involvement in the development of Apprenticeship frameworks. Through these ‘Trailblazers’ leading employers are setting new clear and concise standards for Apprenticeships in 29 sectors.

Another sign of the responsiveness of Apprenticeships to employer demand is evident from the emergence of Apprenticeships in new areas, such as the new Creative and Digital Media Apprenticeship, reflecting changing business and consumer trends in the social media age.

With the economic outlook improving, and Apprenticeships growing in popularity and becoming ever-more responsive to business needs – including a growing range of Higher Apprenticeships that take on-the-job learning to advanced skills at degree level – now really is the time to look again at apprenticeships.

If you’d like to find out more about Apprenticeships for your business, the Employer Partnerships Team at City College Norwich can be contacted on 0800 328 3616 or by email: employerpartnerships@ccn.ac.uk