Author – Sally Neale, HR Director, CRM Solutions, Arvato UK & Ireland
In days gone by, apprenticeships were perceived to be the reserve of blue collar industries and trade professions. Today, they are seen as not only an important route to the workplace for young people, but of significant commercial benefit to both public and private sector organisations.
As we’ve seen in our local government partnerships with Slough, Sefton and Chesterfield, together with private sector partners, apprenticeships present employers with numerous opportunities. Together with addressing skills gaps and helping to boost productivity, apprentices can provide a welcome source of innovation – recent figures from the Skills Funding Agency show 89 per cent of employers report that apprentices have helped them to improve the quality of their products or services.
Encouragingly, the government has firmly put out its stall in support of increasing apprenticeships through the introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy. Under the new rules, programmes can be applied to almost any job role, letting firms deliver training at every level of their organisation, regardless of seniority, in order to embed the skills required to meet their individual commercial ambitions.
However, just implementing an apprenticeship programme doesn’t mean the benefits will simply present themselves. They must be well structured and geared towards developing apprentices into full-time, permanent employees. By delivering 12 month NVQ Level 2 qualifications and offering placements across a wide range of departments from IT to HR and customer services and involving apprentices in key day-to-day work, we’ve achieved some significant results, particularly in local government. Our average retention rate currently stands at 69 per cent, with our promotion rate for those that become permanent also at 69 per cent, well above the national average of 23 per cent.
In addition to this, we’ve seen our apprentices help councils by using their skills-sets, particularly in digital to introduce new ways of working that bring a fresh perspective to help transform processes, maximise available resources and reduce costs. Weekly productivity gains per apprentice also stand at more than double the long-term average for public services at £288, with the average annual economic output produced by each trainee at £1,500.
However, the process shouldn’t stop there. Continual development is essential to provide qualified apprentices with a clear path for their careers, and graduate and learning and development programmes will form a central part of this, providing them with management experience in their chosen area.
The successes we’ve achieved within our partnerships shows that developing an effective apprenticeship scheme can provide clear benefits. While delivering a clear return on investment, perhaps more importantly it provides a training environment to nurture the skill-sets they will need to tackle the challenges ahead.