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Can Apprenticeships Bridge the Skills Gap?

06.10.2015

Can Apprenticeships Bridge the Skills Gap?

The role apprenticeships can play in developing a talented and committed workforce.

It’s no coincidence that when our children go back to school, politicians switch their gaze towards education and training.

Barack Obama has just pledged around $200 million to support apprenticeships, which he believes will ‘boost job creation and raise the standard of vocational education and workforce training’ across the US.

Likewise, David Cameron, who previously promised to create three million new apprenticeships by 2020, unveiled plans to increase the number of apprenticeships offered by large companies in the UK.

He intends to make it a requirement for anyone bidding on big Government contracts to prove they employ a ‘reasonable proportion’ of apprentices if they wish to be successful.

A strong incentive but, from what I can see, many big employers have already been revising their recruitment strategies to include apprenticeships for quite some time.

I recently read an article in The Telegraph that reported on research by the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA). It suggested British school leavers were ‘the worst in Europe for the essential literacy and numeracy skills needed to complete entry level jobs in business’.

The findings went on to suggest that this lack of skills directly affects the performance of companies, with a third taking more than two months to fill junior roles and 75% of school leavers requiring a significant amount of training once hired.

Right now, there seems little doubt that the majority of young people joining the job market lack the skills employers are looking for. If, like me, you believe people are a company’s greatest asset, then this is a very worrying thought; and it looks as if companies like PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) agree.

For a long time now, PwC has been incorporating school leaver programmes and apprenticeship opportunities alongside their better established graduate programmes.

As one of the leading auditors in the world, they take attracting the best talent seriously and, whilst many seem to be stuck debating whose responsibility it is to bridge the skills gap, they are embracing the challenge and facing up to a talent shortage by training people themselves.

For many years, passing your GCSEs, studying for A-levels and going to university became almost compulsory if you wanted a successful career in business.

More recently however, a huge rise in tuition fees has put pay to the degree being a realistic option for a lot of less affluent families; but intelligent recruiters understand this doesn’t mean those people don’t have a lot to offer.

Apprenticeships are a proven way to engage with young talent at an early stage, often building a strong sense of loyalty into these recruits that will benefit an organisation for years to come.

As anyone who has started a new job knows, there’s no substitute for learning by experience and apprenticeships certainly give young people the time to do this and prove they can add value to an organisation; alongside receiving relevant training and valuable vocational qualifications.

The future of your business is down to the talented staff you recruit, so ask yourself, do things need to change in your approach if you’re going to harness the potential of the region’s young people?

Alongside graduate programmes, progressive companies are very much thinking more about vocational training. Although the reputation of apprenticeships may not be as strong it perhaps should, provided they are well planned, they can be a very positive, low-risk addition to your recruitment armoury.

It’s my belief that access to employment should be based on attitude and ability, not the resources to pay for higher education and apprenticeships are fast becoming a critical route into professional careers for many young people.

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