The Importance Of Apprenticeships

Issue 35

Bryony Gibson, managing director of Bryony Gibson Consulting, shares her thoughts on why the new apprenticeship standards and levy are good news for your business.

Developed by employers for employers, the new standards and apprenticeship levy will increase accessibility and improve the focus on knowledge, skills and behaviours so that both young and old people can gain professional qualifications and build fantastic careers.

In a very informative article by Victoria Cavell, of Tolley Exam Training, it was cited that there are now over 1,500 different apprenticeships available in over 170 industries, including many at higher and degree level.

This variety means that apprenticeships are no longer only suitable for school leavers. With over 2,600 employers taking the lead to set the new standards – which incorporate ethics, integrity and adaptability – they are now designed to also reduce spend on retraining and upskilling staff who support business growth.

For levy paying employers (those with a pay bill over £3m), the only way to use the levy is to spend it on training apprentices. Non-levy paying companies can benefit from the Government co-investing up to 90% of apprenticeship training costs, provided they meet the eligibility criteria and offer genuine job or development opportunities.

Non-levy paying companies must also be willing to support financially with exam fees and be able to release apprentices for a minimum of 20% of their work time to attend ‘off-the-job‘ training and study sessions (although in some instances this can be done at night).

In tax accountancy, this means the ATT qualifcation can be done as part of the Level 4 Professional Taxation Technician apprenticeship and the CTA qualification can be done as part of the Level 7 Taxation Professional apprenticeship.

The Big 4 accountancy firms have been incorporating school leaver programmes and apprenticeship opportunities alongside their more established graduate programmes for some time now. As global leaders, they take attracting the best people seriously and, rather than debating whose responsibility it is to bridge the skills gap, they are embracing the challenge and facing up to a talent shortage by training people themselves.

For many years, passing your GCSEs, studying for A-levels and going to university became almost compulsory if you wanted a successful career in business. More recently however, the huge rise in tuition fees has put pay to the degree being a realistic option for a lot of less affluent families; but intelligent recruiters understand this doesn’t mean those people don’t have a lot to offer.

Apprenticeships are a proven way to engage with new talent and develop your team, often building a strong sense of loyalty in employees that will benefit an organisation for years to come.

As anyone who has started a new job knows, there’s no substitute for learning by experience and apprenticeships certainly give people the time to do this while receiving valuable qualifications and proving that they can add value to a business.

The future of your business is down to the ability of the staff you employ so, if you haven’t already, you really should be asking yourself whether your approach needs to change if you’re going to harness the full potential of our region’s most talented people.

Although the reputation of apprenticeships is still not as strong as it should be, the new apprenticeship standards are effectively “talent attraction tools” that will aid recruitment and provide qualifications and work-based learning that appeals to the ambitious and talented.

Apprenticeships are all about learning new skills, whether that’s in a new role or an existing one and, as cost effective ways to equip people with the tools you need to grow your business, they should be at the heart of your talent management strategy.

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