It’s been said that young people will be the ones who are going to bear the brunt when it comes to the lack of jobs that will result from the COVID-19 pandemic. Businesses will, naturally, also take a considerable hit too.
But, amid all the doom and gloom, a glimmer of light may be emerging in the form of apprenticeships. For quite a while, providing alternatives to the traditional progression from secondary education to college or university has been a commitment of the government’s. And, although they have admitted in the past that their aim of creating 3 million new apprenticeships a year would be unattainable, there is certain to be a renewed push when we move on from the restrictions imposed to deal with the pandemic.
As a sign of their intent, the government has already agreed to give employers £2,000 for each new apprentice aged under 25 they hire, and £1,500 for each new apprentice they hire aged 25 and over, up to the 31st January 2021. This includes taking on an apprentice who has been made redundant. In addition, the existing £1,000 payment for new 16-18-year-old apprentices, and those aged under 25 with an Education, Health and Care Plan remains in place.
While businesses, in the past, may have been a little reluctant to take on apprentices due to the extra burden of training with little perceived reward, hopefully, this will soon change.
This is because more and more are taking a step back to see what particular skills shortages that they may have not just now but into the future as well. Apprenticeships are increasingly being seen as a way to plug this gap, especially in STEM fields where a younger generation of workers has a very important role to play.
Another barrier that is increasingly being overcome is the reluctance of companies to take on school-leavers aged between 16 and 18. Often, these young people are perceived to be too immature or unreliable to be worth the investment of training. But, as apprenticeships have started to become a more acceptable alternative to formal education, they are increasingly attracting would-be apprentices who are motivated, talented and just wanting to be given a chance to learn.
And, for employers who are still a little hesitant about ones so young, the emergence of the 25+ apprenticeships will encourage older age groups, with more life experience and maturity, to put themselves forward.
From an HR perspective, it is important that apprentices are largely viewed and treated in the same way as all employees. This is both for their benefit as well as to avoid any confusion about their perceived value to the business.
Another important consideration for businesses planning to offer apprenticeships is to have a clear strategy in place. In this way, the programme on offer can be precisely matched with the skills that will be needed in the future. Not only does this create the right platform for development, it also provides a clear demonstration of the long term commercial value of your investment.
It’s also important to choose the right ‘partner’ to support you in achieving your strategy. Only with the right training provider can businesses ensure the programme meets both their needs as well as those of the apprentice in question.
So the million-dollar question for any business considering offering apprenticeships to ask itself, is “what skills do we need to build within our workforce that we don’t have currently, but will need in the next few years?”
It’s also important to look beyond when apprentices have completed their programme to examine their potential future career path. And to ask what other projects or initiatives they could help with in the future.
Of course, there are very many businesses that simply lack the time, resources or funds to consider apprentices at all. But for those that are in a good position to take one or more on, the benefits are all there to see.