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Ceri Murphy, our Managing Director looks at the introduction of the apprenticeship levy and shares insights into the positive impact apprenticeships can have on businesses:

Currently 250,000 businesses across the country offer apprenticeship schemes, and with the Government hoping to create three million more placements with funds from the new Apprenticeship Levy the number is only going to rise.

Loyalty

Figures from the National Apprenticeship Service show that 71% of apprentices stay with the same employer following the end of an apprenticeship. Furthermore, 80% of businesses report an increase in employee retention after implementing a scheme.

Take GC Components, a supplier of electric products, for example. The company, run by husband and wife team Christine and Gareth Walters, have taken on multiple apprentices over a 25 year span, and currently employ three. Their first apprentice, Simon, joined aged 17 and left after a decade. Christine says “Simon was a wonderful employee. He already had a passion for the industry, and once we’d trained him up, he was a really vital component in our business infrastructure. As he joined us when he was very young, he was personally invested in the success of the company. That’s something you can’t mould somebody to be. Loyalty comes from within. He is now an Account Manager for a large organisation and doing very well for himself, and I feel we really helped him on his career path.”

Finding people who suit the business is key. A good apprenticeship programme will be tailored to suit a company’s needs, ensuring they can avoid wastage and concentrate on employing the right type of person.

Specsavers in Barry, South Wales took on two apprentices, Nathan and Sabina in 2015. We worked with them to create a profile for the apprentices they needed, so they could ensure the people they hired would be beneficial in the long-term. The two have now secured permanent positions as optical assistants.  Store Manager, Kathryn McNicholas says “Nathan and Sabina have absolutely excelled. It’s really important we invest in staff; we see it as future proofing our workforce. We’ve shown Nathan and Sabina we care about their career, and in return, we’re sure they will be long-term employees, and hopefully part of the management team one day,” she adds.

Return on Investment

The financial return for businesses using Apprenticeships has been quantified in numerous studies, including a review by Sheffield University which shows a level three advanced apprenticeship programme generates a lifetime benefit of £105,000 to companies with increased productivity outlined as a primary factor.

Christine of GC Components says the company has achieved a return on investment because their apprentices, Mitchell, Josh and Emily, have brought in much needed IT skills, enabling them to respond to customers much faster “Because our apprentices are so IT savvy we can respond to customers straight away, which has made a huge difference to the volume of sales we can process.”

Specsavers is also reaping rewards from their apprentices’ digital literacy.  Kathryn says “Our apprentices are knowledgeable about computers. They don’t take much time to be trained because they already have solid IT skills.’

Skills

While apprenticeship programmes are modelled to fit business needs, we have noticed a need for social media skills. While a trade can be taught, businesses are being rewarded with apprentices’ proficiency in this area. Christine says. “A good knowledge of social media cannot be underestimated as it helps us to boost our presence online and target new customers who may not have heard of us.”

While good IT skills are a given in most young people, Kathryn also says her apprentices’ inherent enthusiasm injects vibrancy into the team, helping to improve customer satisfaction further.

“Apprentices are eager to learn, and prove themselves in the work environment. We can really learn from their energy and dynamism which encourages customers to return time and time again,” she comments.

Apprenticeships should be considered as a long-term investment in a company’s business plan. As traditional career routes shift and more people start seeing apprenticeships as the best way to achieve their work goals, the pool of available talent will grow, giving more companies a major opportunity to fill skill gaps and make a return on investment.

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