Myth: more apprentices equals more cost
Only companies that pay more than £3m in wages are liable to pay 0.5pc of their paybill into a fund. The Government then adds an extra 10pc to this to spend on apprenticeship training. Adam Schallamach, SME adviser for national network Business Doctors, says: “Many SMEs are put off going down the apprenticeship route because of perceived issues around cost. However, government funding is available which can offset some, if not all, of the cost and, tellingly, the majority of companies that take on apprentices report an increase in productivity.”
Apprenticeships do not have to be imposed. In fact, says Joe Crossley, chief executive of apprenticeship training provider Qube Learning, “The Apprenticeship Levy is a great way for employers to develop and embed training programmes for their employees that align with their growth and business development plans.” He adds: “Since the levy came into effect, we have seen a significant rise in companies which want to invest in management development programmes, and build programmes at Levels 6 and 7 that provide a credible alternative to university.”
Myth: apprenticeships are not for skilled work
Apprenticeships vary hugely in terms of complexity with hundreds available in many job roles across diverse industries. They are typically offered in levels ranging from Level 2 (equivalent to GCSE standard), through Level 3 (A-level standard), 4 and 5 (Higher Education Certificate/diploma or a foundation degree) to 6 (degree) and 7 (master’s), and take between one and five years to complete. And, apprenticeships are much, much more. Individuals doing an apprenticeship benefit from on-the-job training ‒this work experience is invaluable when they are looking to move on and progress their careers.
The BBC started its apprenticeship programme “with serious intent” three years ago, says Claire Paul, the BBC’s director of leadership development and new talent. The organisation offers apprenticeships in areas from production, journalism and broadcast engineering, to legal and business management. These range from Level 3 to degree standard, and they are tailor-made for the BBC, such as the broadcast engineering course.
Myth: it takes away funding from training
The levy can be used to train existing employees (as long as the training meets an approved apprenticeship standard and the employee meets the eligibility criteria for apprentices).
“A significant challenge for employers of any size is getting appropriately qualified staff,” says Mr Schallamach. “The ever-increasing diversity of the UK economy creates a skills gap between what employers need and what education is capable of providing. This is a particular issue for SMEs, which are more likely to be operating in specialised, niche areas. A key benefit of an apprenticeship programme is that it gives employers the opportunity to close that gap through training in the work environment specifically targeted to their needs.”
Myth: an apprenticeship programme will change my workplace dynamic
Apprenticeships can actually improve workplace morale, thinks Phil Robinson, head of training for energy provider EDF Energy, which takes on around 50 apprentices each year. The company’s central programme concentrates on knowhow such as life skills and nuclear safety, says Mr Robinson, and its impact has re-energised the workforce. “The cohort mentality has rubbed off positively among the rest of our stations,” says Mr Robinson. “In 2008, the average age of our maintenance department was about 46. We had ageing power stations with ageing staff. We have reduced the average age from 46 to 27. It’s younger and more dynamic.”
Myth: apprentices will come and train with us and move on elsewhere
“To date, 534 apprentices have gone through our programmes,” says Mr Robinson. “Of them, 100pc have been offered full-time positions in the company and our retention rate is 97pc. These guys and girls come into the business debt-free with a great career ahead of them.”
Myth: apprentices are mainly men
Apprenticeships are actually a great way to narrow the gender divide. In fact, over 53pc of all apprenticeship starts in 2016/17 were by women. “Apprenticeships in engineering, construction and manufacturing are generally better-quality training and better paid than those offered in female-dominated sectors such as hair and beauty, childcare and business administration,” says Helen Wollaston, chief executive of WISE (Women in Science, Technology and Engineering). She believes the levy is a great opportunity to get more women into science, technology and engineering jobs by offering them an apprenticeship.
Apprenticeships are one of the oldest ways of bringing new talent into the workforce – and one of the ways the UK can remain competitively skilled in the future. In the Bright Futures series, The Telegraph partners with the National Apprenticeship Service to share some of the successes from the Top 100 apprentice employers and explain the many benefits on offer to individuals and organisations.
Learn more about the business benefits of taking on apprentices, search ‘apprenticeships’ on GOV.UK