Since its introduction in 2017, the Apprenticeship levy on businesses has caused some controversy.  While some businesses view it as an additional tax, others have struggled with the complexity; whatever the reason the consequence appears to be a fall in apprenticeship starts across the country, numbers were reportedly down by nearly a quarter in 2017/18 compared with the year before.  

Cumbria though has a long tradition in providing apprenticeships and it has one of the highest rates of take-up in the Country.  

There are several apprenticeships levels, Intermediate (level 2), Advanced (level 3), Higher (level 4-7) and Degree (level 6 & 7).  

For Inspira, the County’s leading career management and personal development organisation, apprentices are integral to the operation of the business. Whether that is providing advice and guidance to customers regarding access to Apprenticeships or working with local colleges and training providers to offer Apprenticeship positions within Inspira itself. 

At the end of last year, Inspira’s Chief Executive, Mark Bowman, recognised the work of two former Business Administration Apprentices from within the company - Mia Postlethwaite and Emily Crooks. Awarding each with the coveted ‘Chief Executive Award’, Mark made a special note to comment on their personal growth, development and contribution to their local area teams and the Company as a whole. 

Bob Harland (20), currently working as an Apprentice ICT and MIS Technician at Inspira’s head office, thinks that he has gained much more work experience than he would have done if he’d chosen a different route. Bob spends a week at Carlisle College doing theory work, and the rest of the week is spent resolving live issues. In time Bob intends to complete the Higher Level IT Apprenticeship which is on offer through the Company. 

The changes to apprenticeship funding and the increased access to training opportunities has meant existing members of staff within Inspira have also been able to access apprenticeship training, such as in accounting and finance, as well as roles in Business Administration, Customer Service and IT.  

For Mia and Emily, who have worked for Inspira for three and two years respectively, both believe it was a positive experience and one they would recommend to others. 

As permanent members of the administration team, Mia and Emily look back on their apprenticeship as a life changing experience and readily acknowledge that earning a wage was an important consideration in choosing an apprenticeship. All three – Mia, Emily and Bob, agree that each day is different and seem to find this way of working and learning energising. 

From Inspira’s perspective Apprenticeships are a living, breathing example of how the organisation can help people practically. Although Bob, Mia and Emily are young adults, Apprenticeships are available to people of any age. In its day to day work, and as part of the Company's ethosthe essence of Apprenticeships – giving people the chance to learn, gain work experience and earn – is vitally important as it helps them become self-sufficient, confident in the world of work and financially independent. 

Inspira is determined to develop more apprenticeship opportunities and expand into other disciplines such as the Career Management sector. Employers within this sector are in the final stages of agreeing the Career Development professional standard with the Institute for Apprenticeships. This means as an employer Inspira will be offering opportunities for higher level apprenticeships in careers guidance. 

Considering the government’s Career Strategy and focus on ensuring the Gatsby Benchmarks are adhered to, this development is vital to ensure impartial, quality careers guidance is given to young people at the right time to inspire and raise aspirations, helping them to secure the best future for themselves as is possible in this uncertain world.