Why apprenticeships are the future of recruitment: the benefits for businesses and workers
- 5 Min Read
The employment environment within the UK finds itself facing up to a very challenging period as things currently stand.
In the three months from February to April of this year, the number of vacancies declined by 55,000 from the three months prior. Of even greater concern, this marked the tenth consecutive period of a fall in vacancies. In all, there are currently 214,000 fewer vacancies than there were a year ago, according to the Office for National Statistics.
Furthermore, these shortages do not appear to be down to any lack of appetite among employers to recruit fresh talent. According to the latest survey by the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), more than four-fifths of companies (82%) have reported clear difficulties in their recruitment programmes, up from 76% for the previous quarter.
“[These] findings reveal that British businesses are facing the highest recruitment difficulties on record,” says Alex Veitch, director of policy and public affairs at the British Chambers of Commerce.
“Instead of seeing any easing of our extremely tight labour market, this issue only continues to head in the wrong direction.”
However, amid an otherwise bleak backdrop in terms of employment, apprenticeships offer a chink of light and an opportunity for employers and candidates alike.
Offering a route into paid employment but retaining a fifth of the time spent for the specific purposes of training and development within a classroom-based learning environment, apprenticeships can be utilised to tackle the currently growing skills gap and recruitment drought.
Benefits of apprenticeships to businesses
Apprenticeships provide businesses with significant financial benefits related to recruitment and pay costs. By hiring apprentices, businesses can access a pool of talent at a lower cost compared to hiring experienced professionals. Apprentices are typically paid lower wages during their training period, to account for their development, reducing labour expenses. For example, the minimum wage for an apprentice during their first year of training is £5.28, while the minimum wage for an 18-20 year old in full employment is £7.49.
Through apprenticeships, businesses also have the chance to develop their own talent, nurturing individuals according to their specific needs and aligning their skills with organizational requirements.
This investment in talent development leads to a skilled and capable workforce, enhancing overall productivity and efficiency, while apprenticeships also enable businesses to plan by creating a pipeline of talent and identifying potential future leaders.
This is made all the more likely by the fact that upon the completion of their training, apprentices will typically remain with their original employer, with research by Multiverse putting the figure as high as 93%.
In recent years, the scope and scale of businesses that can capitalise on the opportunities presented by apprenticeships have expanded significantly, with the number of apprenticeship standards now available ranging in the many hundreds.
“If you’re a business and you’re working in agriculture, or if you’re working in engineering, or if you’re working in hair and beauty, there’s an apprenticeship standard that will fit or will very, very closely fit,” says Suzanne Slater, director of operations for apprenticeships at NCFE, in an interview with HRD Connect.
“Whereas previously, you might have been trying to put a bit of a square peg in a round hole.”
Benefits of apprenticeships to workers
Apprenticeships also offer significant advantages to workers, facilitating their personal and professional development. Through the schemes, individuals gain practical skills and hands-on experience in their chosen field at the same time as learning. Working alongside experienced professionals, apprentices learn from their expertise and apply their knowledge in real-world scenarios.
Another key benefit is the ability to earn a wage while learning. This financial support is particularly beneficial for those who may not have the means to pursue full-time education or training without an income.
Apprenticeships also lead to industry-recognized qualifications, validating the skills and knowledge acquired by workers. These qualifications enhance their credibility and employability, opening doors to better job prospects and career advancement opportunities.
The importance of selecting the right End Point Assessment Organisation (EPAO)
However, while an apprenticeship scheme can deliver major benefits to both the businesses that establish them and the apprentices that complete them, the schemes themselves must be developed and operated to a high level of quality for those benefits to be realised.
The EPAO (End-Point Assessment Organization) that is chosen by the business plays a crucial role in ensuring the quality and effectiveness of an apprenticeship scheme. It provides independent assessment and verification of an apprentice’s competence and skills, ensuring that the standards set by the apprenticeship program are met.
The EPAO’s oversight guarantees the credibility and reliability of the apprenticeship scheme, contributing to the overall success of both apprentices and businesses involved.
Drawing on her experiences at NCFE, which provides a market leading end-point assessment service that has a 97% pass rate, Slater tells HRD Connect that one of the most important factors in dictating success, is that an employer takes account of the final assessment right from the early stages of an apprenticeship programme.
“It’s really important that the employer understands from the very beginning really, what endpoint assessment is, what their role is within endpoint assessment, and what their role is in preparing their apprentice for end-point assessment as well,” she says.
“We’re doing a lot of work now to try and have more direct contact with the business, through their training provider, to support them and to offer advice and guidance, because we don’t want any apprentices to reach that EPA without having had the right preparation and mock assessments.”