Although technology is helping to create new and exciting jobs, there is the potential for the current skills gaps to widen if businesses do not adapt and act now. Indeed, many employers are already struggling to attract and recruit high-quality candidates with the right skills required for these new roles.
Apprenticeship schemes can often be the best answer to solving recruitment challenges, and are a vibrant new channel of technical resource to fill the skills gap. Apprentices can be trained in deep technical skills on the job, with real clients, and in real work situations, and often progress rapidly up the organisational career ladder. Apprenticeship schemes mean that businesses can grow their own talent and provide exactly the skills they need to succeed. In fact, eight out of ten employers have maintained or improved future skills in the business by hiring apprentices.
Apprenticeship schemes also reduce staff turnover and lower recruitment costs – with 75% of apprentice employers finding this to be the case. Apprenticeships are an investment for the future, and a savvy one when considering the economic realities of upskilling. Our own experience at IBM has shown that apprenticeship retention is high and we see them as highly valued employees. Not only that – they often outperform graduates and once qualified, are indistinguishable from other technical specialists. In this way, apprenticeships are key to maintaining and developing expertise at a time when specialist skills can be hard to come by.
I’ve seen first-hand how apprentices I’ve worked with can inject a sense of youthful energy into any work environment. New, fresh talent is often accompanied by a new lease of creativity and enthusiasm, which is essential for any business aiming to achieve high levels of innovation.
The statistics are there to back up the facts, especially when it comes to business productivity. According to government findings, firms with established apprenticeship schemes concluded that productivity had improved in their workplace by 76%, with three-quarters of those firms agreeing that apprenticeships had improved the quality of their product or service.
For any business, the most important asset is their people, and apprenticeship schemes ensure that businesses are continually bringing in fresh talent, and with it, fresh ideas. At IBM apprentices are central to our work and growth strategy and we have found them to be loyal, committed and enthusiastic employees. It is time for governments, education providers and businesses to come together to bring apprenticeship schemes to the fore of the UK employment landscape if we are to truly tackle the skills gap.
Jenny Taylor, UK Graduate, Apprenticeship and Student Programme Leader at IBM