The publication in November last year, of the Department of Education’s report on Further Education and Skills, England: 2018/19, has revealed some worrying trends and further highlights the controversy over the Apprenticeship Levy.
Introduced in 2017, the Apprenticeship levy has been criticised by businesses as many were unclear how the levy worked, some big businesses saw it as a tax rather than an incentive to take on more young people.
However, over the past couple of years, numbers have risen again, with apprenticeship starts in the 2018/19 academic year hitting 389,200, up from 369,700 during the previous year. It’s not a huge jump, but it’s a start.
“As a careers management and personal development organisation we are committed to promoting and utilising apprenticeships though and in our organisation,” said Mark Bowman, Chief Exec of the Cumbrian charity Inspira.
“Every year we take on average one or two apprentices who are based in our local centres or Head Office,” continues Mark. “For us, developing young people is an important aspect of our charitable status; thus, we feel it is imperative to embed the philosophy within our organisation.”
As part of the contract through Cumbria County Council, Inspira is tasked with ensuring all young people who are 16 and 17 have a September Guarantee, a place in education, and training.
“Last year, 10.8% of Cumbrian 16/17 year olds participated in an apprenticeship compared to 5.5% in England and 6.5% in the North West,” said Mark.
For Erin Doherty, a business administration apprentice for Inspira in Barrow, the decision to choose an apprenticeship was quite easy.
“I wanted the opportunity to gain experience and learn while earning money on the job. Knowing that apprenticeships can boost your career prospects, by learning key skills that employers within that industry want, I saw it as an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.”
Within Cumbria, the breadth of apprenticeships available is impressive for a relatively small and rural county. From the multinationals through to local government and SMEs, young people can earn and learn up to degree level.
There are hundreds of apprenticeships to choose from across a huge range of sectors, from construction to chemical engineer, and the move to new, employer-designed apprenticeship standards has allowed employers to come together and develop apprenticeships that meet their skills needs.
“I think over the past few years, employers of all sizes increasingly understand the benefit of employing apprentices,” says Mark Bowman, “and when looking at the bottom line, the value for money apprentices represent too as it cuts down on recruitment costs.”
For those employers who don’t have to pay the apprenticeship levy, 90 percent of the training costs for apprentices are government-funded. For those employers who do pay the levy, the funds are easily accessible through the apprenticeship service. There are also savings for apprentice employers from lower recruitment costs and lower salaries. In addition, there are indirect financial returns to consider, such as a quarter of consumers are willing to pay more for products from a business they see as socially responsible, including apprentice employers.
Adults aren’t missing out either; all apprenticeships are open to people of any age. Indeed, the DfE’s publication has shown that the share of apprenticeship starts taken up by over-25s has grown by 1.7 points, and during 2018-19, apprentices aged 25 and older formed 46 percent of all starts.
The introduction of apprenticeship standards and more employer input into the programme, as illustrated in the UK’s first two-year master’s level senior leader marketing apprenticeship through Cranfield School of Management. Businesses who access the Apprenticeship Levy will be able to use their funds to pay for employees to participate and help shape the employer-based portion of the programme, enabling them to create the next senior leaders within their organisation.
“Through our adult services, our advisers talk clients through various upskilling options, including apprenticeships,” said Mark. “There are varying degrees of openness towards them, but we certainly see an increase in the uptake of apprenticeships by the 24+ age group.”
To talk to Inspira about apprenticeships click here: www.inspira.org.uk