In 2015, National Apprenticeship Week runs from 9-13 March and offers a perfect opportunity to assess the business impact of the rapid rise in apprenticeships, in tandem with evaluating why they’re proving so popular. The Shield Group’s CEO John Roddy offers his considered views on what is a highly topical subject for the UK’s security sector.
Once deemed secondary to university education, apprenticeships are now very much back in fashion as statistics show that the number of employers signing on apprentices has risen by nearly one third (32%) from last year.
Although gradually falling, youth unemployment remains a key concern for many families up and down the country. At present, 16.2% of all 16-24 year olds are without a job, let alone a foot on the career ladder.
Representing a combination of part-time educational programmes and on-the-job learning, apprenticeships are providing young people with an alternative option for moving themselves towards the forefront of the UK’s businesses landscape instead of adopting the more traditional graduate scheme route.
At The Shield Group, the building of our apprentices’ numeracy and literacy skills – skills they didn’t learn in school – is a crucial aspect within our programmes, with apprentices usually relishing this second opportunity to upskill themselves.
Certainly, businesses need to take a bigger responsibility in giving our young people the skills they need to succeed. This will go some way towards reducing youth unemployment and, from our own experience, youth criminality.
Shift towards vocational development
The shift towards vocational development is clearly having a positive impact on businesses right across the UK. There’s no denying that apprenticeships are a great way for young talent to enter the workforce, giving school leavers the chance to develop the necessary skills for their chosen career path while affording businesses the fresh outlook, new ideas and flexibility they need to succeed in this day and age.
Research conducted by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills shows that the majority of apprentices are currently under the age of 25, in turn giving employers the chance to shape and develop their workforce from the onset of their working lives.
Apprentices are taught to embrace a company’s culture from an early age and, as a result, become even more aware of its overall objectives. Not only does this allow companies to mould apprentices into articulate and business-minded people, but I’ve found that having such schemes in place also has a positive knock-on effect among existing employees whose morale is lifted by knowing that their employer is committed to training and professional development at all levels.
However, if you wish for your apprentices to feel they belong to the business, my own experience has been that nothing makes this clearer than hiring them on the same basis as you would your permanent employees, and that includes their level of pay.
At The Shield Group, we not only empower our apprentices through the opportunity to learn new skills and industry qualifications but also empower them in their pocket, underlining the value of their services to our business strategy.
Productivity is a common concern for employers considering the adoption of apprenticeship schemes. That said, a survey conducted last year by Populus showed that 81% of business respondents believe hiring apprentices helps boost the productivity of their companies, with those organisations surveyed reporting an average increase in productivity of £214 per week.
While it’s not a legal requirement, paying your apprentices a decent wage will increase their commitment to your business and, naturally, address any concerns around productivity.
Conscientious members of the team
The apprentices I’ve spoken with at The Shield Group are some of the most hard-working and conscientious members of our team. Indeed, it now seems difficult to imagine operating our normal business functions without them.
This is why no less than 86% of apprentices remain in employment after their initial apprenticeship finishes, and why public sector bodies are now keen to provide 100% funding to help run such a scheme.
We’re only halfway there in terms of realising the potential of apprenticeship schemes for our national economy which is why, during National Apprenticeship Week, I would like to encourage all business leaders to get on board.