Apprentices in the UK have shown their value to business, providing another genuine option for both school leavers, those looking for a career change and businesses looking for quality staff to invest in.
Apprenticeships are on the rise in the UK with 509,400 apprentices starting in 2015/16 compared to 499,900 in 2015/15 – an increase of 1.9 per cent – and this trend is set to continue throughout 2016/17 and beyond.
This growth is reinforced by the number of apprenticeships completed successfully in 2015/16 – 266,900 compared to 255,800 in 2014/15, an increase of 5,100.
The growth in apprenticeships in the UK comes from two angles: a lack of degree-level jobs available for graduates and the increase in companies offering work for apprentices, making it a real opportunity for the younger generation.
University application from all areas of the UK peaked in 2016 with 37 per cent of 18 year olds in England applying for a full time undergraduate degree courses at Universities around the country. This increase had been accompanied by a saturation of the job market for degree level jobs, driving up standards and leaving many graduates unable to find work in their field or at a level they would have expected.
Apprenticeships aren’t just for 18 year olds though, with a majority of 44 per cent (224,100) apprenticeship starts in 2015/16 being from people aged 25 or over; compared to 30 per cent (153,860) of 19-24 year olds and 26 per cent (131,420) of under 19s.
This would indicate that many graduates are now becoming apprentices after completing a University course and being unable to find work in their industry on the strength of their degree qualification alone.
There has also been a marked increase in the number of places willing to take on apprentices in their company. This could be a result of the recent financial unrest as companies try to cut costs and see apprenticeships as a long term, relatively low cost investment compared to hiring a skilled graduate.
Why are apprenticeships so popular with businesses, and what does an apprentice bring to the table that a graduate can’t?
Long Term Benefits
Taking on an apprentice provides many long term benefits to your company, not least the loyalty that you will encourage them to develop by taking them on and giving them a career. By providing them with the tools and skills needed to be successful you are bolstering the success of the company and allowing the next generation to take over.
Apprenticeships often lead to lengthy careers with those entering at apprentice level often moving up the corporate ladder into management and executive level positions. They provide a fresh perspective and bring modern ideas and innovations into the working of the company, helping it to remain relevant and innovative.
A prime example of this progression is Jason, a manager in the KnowHow call centre in Sheffield working for Dixons Group; who own brands such as Currys and PC World. Jason began as an apprentice sales adviser on the Youth Training Scheme at 16 and has worked his way up through the company’s various departments.
At 45 Jason now holds a senior management position in the centre. He says that he has ‘had a diverse, high achieving career thanks to that YTS job. The same opportunities are open to any apprentice who has the right attitude and work ethic.’
Often, an apprentice candidate for promotion has an edge over external candidates as they know your business inside out and have worked their way up from entry level to the opportunity. This also means you have the chance to ensure the internal culture runs right through all levels of the company, and will further enhance their loyalty to the company.
Using apprenticeships also provides stability to the workforce. With average apprenticeships lasting 3-4 years and careers afterwards lasting much longer, the turnover of staff will be lowered the more apprenticeships you take on board.
Not only does this mean knowledgeable, experienced staff for your company; it means that you can save money on posting job advertisements every few months and valuable time interviewing and then training new candidates as replacements for those who leave.
Low Cost Outlay
With the average salary for graduates coming in at £30,000 per year and the average apprenticeship salary at around £8,000 per year; the initial cost of an apprenticeship is low even with apprenticeship levies and costs to the suppliers.
This is a vital detail for small businesses who want to expand but don’t have the funding to bring in an experienced member of staff. A great example is James Hardwick, an apprentice at Future Life Wealth Management in Sheffield.
James was taken on board by founder of the company Jillian Thomas in 2014, who admitted that she wasn’t looking for an apprentice at the time but given the opportunity, she hasn’t looked back.
James is working his way through various apprenticeship qualifications and has become a vital member of the team. Recognising the need for young talent and the benefits of taking on an apprentice has led to Jillian taking on another apprentice in 2015 to further grow her company.
The added benefit of hiring an apprentice over a graduate is that this salary is fixed for the duration of the apprenticeship and after hiring them full time you will be unlikely to be paying them the same as an average graduate. Even if you do need to increase their salary to this level, you will have had the low initial outlay and all their knowledge and benefits to your business before having to increase their wage.
The increase in popularity of apprenticeships for the 25+ age group could mean that there is an opportunity to hire a graduate in your relevant field, with a good degree and knowledge of the industry at cost of an apprenticeship.
It is likely that these graduates will need a higher wage, even as an apprentice, than someone without their qualifications, but they will still be a fraction of the cost of hiring them as a full time staff member on a graduate wage immediately.
Taking an apprentice straight out of school, college or even University also has many benefits to your business.
Their lack of experience working in the industry, especially if they are from school or college, means that they will not have picked up any bad habits or laziness from other companies which you have to battle with in their training. You can teach them your way of doing things as the only way they know, guaranteeing compliance with your policies and ways of working.
This also allows you to instil in them the culture of your company and your values, providing them with a framework to build their career upon. The benefits to hiring a graduate apprentice is that they may already be familiar with certain machinery or systems, especially in the graphics design or manufacturing sector, meaning you don’t have to dedicate as much time to training them up on them.
There are other benefits to taking on apprentices so young too. They will have grown up with the latest technologies and won’t be afraid of innovation; allowing your company to learn and benefit as much from their cultural experiences as well as instilling your business culture into them.
An example of this is Joshua Fisher-Lambert, an apprentice Trainee Surveyor with Quantum Survey Management in Sheffield. Joshua spent his youth playing video games, as did many of his age group, and this has stood him in good stead with Quantum as they look to diversify into new technologies; specifically using drones to measure large areas.
Joshua’s experience with technology from a young age and his video gaming hobby has quickly led to him being the go-to guy for piloting the drone, using his hand-eye coordination skills to help the businesses new venture become a success.
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