• Ask the Panel: Are businesses of all sizes being given enough support to provide quality apprenticeship opportunities?

Ask the Panel: Are firms given enough support to provide quality apprenticeships?

Amid reports highlighting apprenticeships as a valuable alternative to degrees across a range of sectors, we ask a panel of experts:

Are businesses of all sizes being given enough support to provide quality apprenticeship opportunities? 

David Cain | director, Crossfield Construction

As we face such a skills shortage in the construction industry, we take our responsibility very seriously in attracting and, importantly, retaining young people into the sector.

We have recently recruited a business administration apprentice and a quantity surveying degree apprenticeship through Hugh Baird College and Liverpool John Moores University. Not only do they fill important roles for us, but we’re eligible for extensive funding through the Apprenticeship Levy so it’s a win-win situation.

There is support for a business of our size, and there’s good funding out there, but I don’t think there’s enough engagement between business and education providers to fully understand the benefits apprenticeships can bring and, importantly, the different roles on offer.

We see it as our duty, however, to ensure we continue to use the route to bring young people into the industry and we’ll do our utmost to support both the education providers, other businesses and the young people to demonstrate the effectiveness of the apprenticeship route.

Related | For more expert insight on a range of topics visit our ‘Ask the Panel’ section

Emma Stoddart | partner, Grant Thornton

Apprenticeships are vital to the future success of our economy – particularly as there are worrying skills shortages across many sectors.

Recent government data revealing a 30% fall in the number of young people joining apprenticeship schemes between August 2017 and May this year is a big concern. Many see the complexity of the Apprenticeship Levy, which is paid by larger companies, as being a key reason for the fall so this clearly needs to be addressed.

While the levy affects just 2% of companies, I believe more help is needed to encourage small firms too. The requirement for them to pay 10% of the cost – on top of the greater practical impact on them of managing the programme – is clearly proving to be a disincentive, and hopefully the Chancellor will look at this in the Autumn Statement.

Phil Blything | managing director, Glow New Media 

Glow has completed several apprenticeship programmes and on the whole it’s very positive – win-win. There’s a particular issue for tech apprenticeships though, and the bar for programming can be set high. With so many programming vacancies, it would be fantastic to see more apprentice candidates with practical programming skills. Narrowing that gap and communicating it both ways is key.

Apprenticeships are a fantastic opportunity to get into a great career very early on. Digital careers often depend more on capability than qualification so apprenticeships can offer both.

Some of the best results we see are the self-starters who didn’t wait for permission but started programming or designing under their own steam and used the apprenticeship schemes to take that further.

Getting experience to land a job can be a chicken and egg problem. A bit of proactivity mixed with apprenticeships is a great way forward.

Lesley Martin-Wright | chief executive of Knowsley Chamber and head of Knowsley Growth Hub

For some companies the landscape remains daunting, however the good news is that support is out there, and lots of it.

Recruiting an apprentice makes good business sense. Apprentices play a pivotal role within business and for many companies, no matter how large or small, recruiting new talent and developing employees is a strategic priority.

Apprentices bring new skills, new ways of doing things, and give the employer the opportunity to train someone from scratch.

A natural ‘go to’ organisation is the Chamber of Commerce, however your local college or the National Apprenticeship Service are both great sources of expertise and advice.

Apprenticeships remain very popular here in Knowsley because a large number of our successful owner/managers, who started off as apprentices, are fully committed to offering young people a chance to learn a valuable skill or trade. The highly proactive Knowsley Works team also has an excellent track record of matching apprenticeship opportunities with suitable candidates.