By Nicola Callaghan, Managing Director at HR Caddy

Over the last decade, the UK has seen 4.75 million apprenticeships started. The latest data from May 2021 shows that around 719,000 apprentices are working in the UK, with more than 322,500 apprentices entering new roles before the pandemic in 2019/20.

This is an incredible achievement but the recent labour shortages experienced by many employers indicates that a new generation of workers – equipped with the right skills – are needed. 

As businesses frenetically seek out new employees, they may be missing out on the opportunity to train the next generation of workers, experts and professionals to fill important roles. 

Employer attitudes to apprenticeships

Much is said about young people’s attitudes to apprenticeships, which is predominantly positive, but less is said about how employers view apprenticeship programmes. 

We have had snippets from the likes of accountancy firm Grant Thornton, which two years ago found that half of the employers it surveyed planned to recruit more apprentices than they do now in the next five years.

Similarly, the most recent official data, from the 2019 Employment Skills Survey, showed that interest was growing – even if at the time only 10 per cent of employers had an apprentice actively working within their business. 

Much has changed since then. The shakeup of the pandemic and the subsequent labour shortage in some sectors means that employers need to try new approaches. 

Anecdotally, more businesses seem to be open to the idea of hiring an apprentice, not least because more experienced workers have switched careers, retired early or moved abroad. 

This is something that the Government has also recognised in its ongoing campaign to help young people into work through apprenticeships and training.

The financial benefits of apprenticeships 

There has never been more financial support available to businesses to encourage the hiring of apprentices – but the window to claim grants is quickly running out. 

At the moment the Government is offering a £3,000 incentive payment, which ends in January 2022. 

The payment is different to apprenticeship levy funds as it can be spent to support any aspect of an organisation’s costs. Employers do not have to pay it back either.

The payment is in addition to the existing £1,000 an employer will already get for taking on an apprentice who is either aged 16 to 18 years old or under 25 and has an education, health and care plan or has been in the care of their local authority

If this wasn’t enough, in some cases employers could make use of the Kickstart scheme as well, which ends for employer applications on 17 December 2021. 

This scheme is designed to support the creation of new job placements for 16 to 24-year-olds on Universal Credit, who are at risk of long-term unemployment.

Funding from the scheme covers 100 per cent of a worker’s National Minimum or Living Wage (depending on the age of the applicant) for 25 hours per week for a total of six months, the associated employer National Insurance contributions and an employer’s minimum automatic enrolment contributions.

The job placement created must not replace existing or planned vacancies or cause existing employees, apprentices or contractors to lose work or reduce their working hours.

Given the amount of funding out there to employers at the moment they face a now or never moment if they are going to maximise the support available to them. 

Preparing a business for apprentices 

The success or failure of most apprentices can hinge on whether the business is prepared and ready to support them. 

If a company has never hired an apprentice before, they should seek expert advice on the HR and training processes that they need to implement. This may include updating work policies or developing a structured training or mentorship strategy. 

We have helped many businesses with their onboarding processes for apprentices and trainees and feel there is a growing demand for this type of service within many businesses. 

Speak to us to find out how we can help you with apprenticeships.