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Five reasons your business should take on an apprentice

5 February 2020: Rosalia Wood, ICAEW’s Regional Industrial Strategy Manager, regularly meets company bosses that say their businesses simply cannot source the talent they need to thrive and grow. With a huge skills gap and possible cliff edge in terms of talent retention now we've left the EU, we drastically need to up-skill the population to meet demand.

Apprenticeships are a great way of meeting your company’s personnel needs, and in this year’s National Apprenticeship Week, here are five ways in which they could boost your business.

1. Home grow your talent

Nicki Tinniswood, ICAEW member and Financial Director of WhiteHat Group, an innovative tech start-up linking businesses with apprentices, says that “employers recognise that by investing in apprenticeship placements, they are effectively generating their own talent pipeline that will mature with the business”. It is clear that this perception chimes with the behaviour of employers offering apprenticeships. The government’s last Apprenticeships Survey in 2017 showed that 30% of employers said that the ability to meet their company’s needs was the primary reason for taking on apprentices. 

2. Boost your productivity

Of course, having an appropriately skilled workforce with real-world knowledge and experience of its relevant sector it works in has huge benefits for your business in terms of productivity. In fact, according to recent research, 76% of businesses that took on an apprentice in 2019 reported an improvement in their productivity as a result of their apprenticeships programme. Companies involved reported that this was due to lower costs, increased product quality and higher profits. If you’re looking to boost efficiency and grow your business, taking on an apprentice is a no-brainer.

3. Widen your access to talent

Mounting university fees are seeing young people, particularly from lower-income backgrounds, turn away from traditional modes of higher education. Last year 393,400 young people sought alternative routes to training through apprenticeships, a 20,000 increase on the previous year. Speaking again to ICAEW member Nicki Tinniswood about her experiences with employers that have taken on apprentices, she describes the “different journey and experiences” that apprenticeship alumni have been on as “bringing a wealth of profit-driving ideas and experiences to the table that would have otherwise remained hidden”. The message is clear: if you want the brightest and best workforce to help your business grow and to bring fresh ideas to the table, you need to cast your recruitment net wider and start an apprenticeships programme.

4. Drive retention

ICAEW’s Business Confidence Monitor regularly reports staff turnover as a key factor affecting businesses’ investment plans. Tinniswood: "this bears out my experience; and many businesses I speak to in the regions tell me that their concern over investing in apprenticeship training is that, with fierce competition in the labour market, those staff may be poached by larger businesses in economic centres like London, Manchester or Bristol. A recent study undertaken by the ‘Training Journal’ has demonstrated that this simply isn’t the case. This research shows that in sectors with traditionally high turnover rates, such as hospitality retentions of staff have more than doubled. The Journal attributes this trend to company loyalty instilled in apprentices and the structured progression that an apprenticeship programme offers. Better retention rates are key in business continuity and increased productivity, and it is clear that offering an apprenticeship programme is integral to meeting these two key aims of modern business."

5. Upskill your current staff

The fact is that we’re all living longer. We will spend longer at work than previous generations. People coming into the workforce today will likely have more than one career which is likely to undergo significant change due to new technologies. Training opportunities available to workers need to reflect this flux to ensure that the UK has a productive and efficient workforce. That’s where apprenticeships come in: an apprenticeship can be taken by anybody, at any time and in a range of subjects, from accountancy to engineering to catering. An apprenticeship is an excellent way to progress your existing staff to create a better skilled, more contented and loyal worker base. So, why not give Susan in accounts the opportunity to take that engineering course she’s always on about and build a happier and more productive workforce as a result?

The accountancy and professional services sector has always led the way in terms of producing highly skilled apprentices, with over 30% of all higher level apprenticeships in the sector. Starting an apprenticeship programme could give your organisation a more highly skilled, efficient and loyal workforce, but that’s not even the best part. And there is even better news for smaller businesses with up to 50 members of staff: the Government could underwrite 95% of your training costs. If you’re looking to expand your workforce, taking on an apprentice could be the way forward.