National Apprenticeship Week: Support from the Swindon & Wiltshire Growth Hub

By Anita Jaynes on 9 February, 2022

This week, Monday 7th February – Sunday 13th February it’s the 15th National Apprenticeship Week which aims to show how apprenticeships have a positive impact on individuals, businesses and the wider economy. 

Here, the Swindon & Wiltshire Growth Hub discuss the benefits of connecting people with ambition to businesses with a vision.

As part of our commitment to supporting organisations and individuals to get the best from apprenticeships, the SWLEP Growth Hub has a dedicated Skills Adviser assisting with all things ‘apprenticeship’.

Please reach out if you need:

• Help with deciding if having an apprentice would work for your business

• Guidance on choosing the options for course and standards of apprenticeship

• Assistance with the ongoing process

Organisations of all sizes and sectors can offer apprenticeships. There are a huge variety of apprenticeships available and plenty of support if, as a business owner, you are unsure if they are right for you and your business.  

Three webinars were created by the Skills team specifically for National Apprenticeship Week and are available watch post event. Each webinar outlines the key areas of value that apprenticeships can bring to growing organisations. 

DEVELOPING NEW TALENT 

Most people have the historic view that apprentices are school-leavers, young and inexperienced. As you will read below, this is no longer always the case. That said, whilst young people entering into a more basic level apprenticeship within a business environment may have only recently left school, they can still bring a great deal of new talent to your organisation.  

Digital skills, in particular, are a key benefit of hosting a young person, plus you have the opportunity to develop the individual to work in a way that you need for your specific situation. There are a number of apprenticeship standards and levels, with some options to mould the modules to suit your individual circumstances.

FILLING YOUR SKILLS GAP

86 per cent of employers said apprenticeships helped them develop skills relevant to their organisation. 

By offering an exciting opportunity to someone that may have worked elsewhere previously, they can bring a wealth of transferable skills which can be further honed and developed according to the specific needs of your organisation. From basic to degree levels, there is bound to be one suitable for your requirements which will attract the right candidate.  

Higher level apprenticeships, in particular, are a great recruitment tool to bring in a talented and experienced workforce that are committed to their progression in their chosen career or industry.

RETAINING, RETRAINING AND MOTIVATING EXISTING TALENT

Utilising apprenticeships to upskill and motivate staff is a great way to prepare your business for the future.

No-one likes to lose quality staff, but if they no longer have the right skills needed for the future you plan for your business, you might think you would have to consider letting them go. But why not offer them the opportunity to develop or change career direction by utilising an apprenticeship which will enable them to develop the skills you will need for the future? 

Using apprenticeships to upskill existing staff can help to motivate them, assist in their career progression whilst also helping futureproof your company. 

WHAT SKILLS CAN BE LEARNT VIA AN APPRENTICESHIP?

Do you operate in the space industry? Do you need a space engineering technician?  There’s an apprenticeship offering for that. Do you run a marketing agency?  Do you need a junior advertising creative? There’s an apprenticeship offering for that too.

In fact, there are currently 697 apprenticeship standards approved for delivery and potential standards for use by employers which can help people of all ages pursue a great career and provide organisations with skilled, bespoke talent.

In addition to talking to one of the Growth Hub’s Skills Advisers to find out more, you can also investigate the wealth of resources available on the Government’s apprenticeship website www.apprenticeships.gov.uk.

The site details the many sectors serviced by apprenticeships including: 

  • Agriculture, environment and animal care
  • Business and administration
  • Care services
  • Catering and hospitality
  • Construction
  • Creative and design
  • Digital
  • Education and childcare
  • Engineering and manufacturing
  • Hair and beauty
  • Health and science
  • Legal, finance and accounting

Within each sector, there are a number of available standards, or training courses which make up each apprenticeship. The Institute for Apprenticeships website contains full details of the standards that are available (697 at the time of writing). More are added regularly and in consultation with business leaders and employers to ensure that the apprenticeship qualifications are fit for purpose in today’s economy.

IS THERE A ‘ONE SIZE FITS ALL’ APPRENTICESHIP?

Apprenticeships are available from Level 2 (GCSE equivalent) right through to Levels 6 and 7 (equivalent to a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree). Some apprenticeships may also offer additional professional qualifications, such as Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA).  

NameLevelEquivalent educational level
Intermediate25 GCSE passes
Advanced32 A Level passes
Higher4,5,6 and 7Foundation degree and above
Degree6 and 7Bachelor’s or
Master’s degree

When you create an apprenticeship opportunity, you decide the level of engagement and commitment needed – both for your business’ development and the apprentice’s career aspirations. A smaller SME might initially only require a basic level administration assistant, for example, which could be a Level 2 or 3 Apprenticeship.  Another, larger organisation might wish to retain a senior Operations Manager by enabling them to upskill to a Level 5 HR consultant partner apprenticeship instead of perhaps recruiting for an existing HR professional.

WHAT’S THE COST OF TAKING ON AN APPRENTICE?

Both examples above could prove to be cost-effective options for each business. The smaller SME gives an opportunity to a young person who is likely to be a school-leaver on a lower salary, keen to learn and develop, and the SME also gains support from the apprenticeship training provider in their endeavours to train the apprentice.  

The larger organisation retains a loyal member of staff who will undoubtedly have a huge amount of experience which can be utilised to create a great HR professional at the end of the apprenticeship, meanwhile, continuing to pay the manager’s previous salary as opposed to the salary level required by a new recruit with existing qualifications, not to mention the savings on recruitment costs. The Operations Manager’s replacement is also likely to be on a lesser salary initially as they won’t be as experienced as the current incumbent.

There are costs when taking on any new position in a business, but when taking on an apprenticeship role (new or existing staff positions) the Government currently offers employer incentives to assist with the creation costs. There are also incentive payments for hiring an apprentice where their previous role was made redundant.

As their employer, you are responsible for their salary payments, and whilst there are minimum apprenticeship salary levels in the first year starting at £4.15 per hour, few employers actually pay at this level as they find they secure better quality candidates if they pay above the minimum. For apprentices under 25, it is unlikely that you will have to pay Class 1 National Insurance payments, but the apprentice will still pay their element.  Always check current HMRC guidance.

WHAT ARE THE COSTS OF THE TRAINING ITSELF?

If your salary bill is less than £3 million per annum you pay just 5 per cent towards the cost of training and assessing an apprentice. The Government will pay the rest. If you employ fewer than fifty employees, the Government will pay up to 100 per cent for younger apprentices’ training and assessing costs. There are certain rules which will need to be checked to confirm eligibility of the 100 per cent funding, particularly those aged 16-24 and with an education, health and care plan provided by their local authority or has been in the care of their local authority.

Employers with a salary bill of more than £3 million per annum must pay an apprenticeship levy, currently 0.5 per cent. Up to 25 per cent of the levy payments not used to cover the cost of their own apprenticeship requirements can be transferred or pledged to non-levy-paying businesses of their choice, such as those in their supply chain, businesses within their community or in similar sectors.

Non-levy-paying businesses can apply for pledged funds by searching the Government’s public website https://transfers.manage-apprenticeships.service.gov.uk. This is a fantastic way to cover your portion of the costs of training and assessing apprentices.

WHAT DO EMPLOYERS HAVE TO DO TO SUPPORT THEIR APPRENTICE? 

As with any new employee or someone transferring departments or starting a new position, an employer is expected to provide a level of support; an induction programme, access to training materials and mentors etc.

It is no different with an apprentice, but you will have chosen a training provider. Details are available from the Growth Hub Skills advisers or www.apprenticeships.gov.uk. The training provider will support both the apprentice and you, with all three of you entering into a Training Agreement outlining everyone’s responsibilities.

Each apprentice is to be provided with 20 per cent off the job training, which is an opportunity for them to receive experience in other areas than their chosen role. This could be attendance at meetings or shadowing other team members and provides you with opportunities to align the person’s skills to your own business. Some courses require the person to attend college or a training setting for a day a week or in blocks. This is to be supported and agreed at the outset.

Some employers allow their apprentices space and time to study within the working environment and others have arranged group networking sessions for apprentices studying similar subjects with other employers in the local area. Providing opportunities to shadow other team members can also be valuable.

LET’S DO THIS! 

With 78 per cent of employers saying that apprenticeships helped them improve productivity and 74 per cent saying apprenticeships helped them improve the quality of their product or service overall, surely it’s worth discussing the options open to you further?

If the answer is ‘yes’, we can provide impartial help, advice and guidance, supporting you through the process of growing your business through apprenticeships.

Contact the Swindon and Wiltshire Growth Hub Skills team on 01249 477 288 or email skills@swgrowthhub.co.uk

Check out the events section of our website for upcoming webinars or watch content on demand at: www.SWGrowthhub.co.uk