The skills required by employers today are evolving rapidly and leaders need to adapt to stay competitive. We need to rethink how we recruit, train and upskill our workforce, and apprenticeships provide a viable option for doing exactly this. With many businesses across the country now running thriving apprenticeship programmes, those who ignore the opportunities that apprenticeships provide risk being left behind.
Right now, many sectors are facing challenges concerning recruitment and retention, be it meeting a skills gap, diversifying their workforce or tackling an ageing workforce. Apprenticeships offer a proactive solution to these issues. Apprenticeships can be tailored to a business’s specific needs, and address workforce challenges through bespoke programmes. In addition to the many benefits that can be gained, apprentices bring a fresh perspective, different skills and heaps of enthusiasm to the workplace.
Importantly, apprenticeships also do not just benefit businesses and individuals: they can help the wider community as well. We value the unique difference everyone brings to our business. We have already made positive gains in diversifying our workforce, with the number of new starters from black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds increasing from 8.9 per cent in 2016 to 20.3 per cent in 2017. Equally, today 54 per cent of our apprentice intake are female and over 50 per cent are under 25. Being able to access talent from a variety of different backgrounds and with a range of experiences enables us to better represent and serve our customers and the communities in which we operate.
And, while a traditional university education may be the right choice for some, it is not right for everyone. We are looking for people who are bright and adaptable, and, for those receiving exam results this month, we encourage them to consider the best path for them.
It is also vital to challenge the myth that apprenticeships are only for school leavers. We have apprentices from a range of backgrounds: school leavers, graduates and existing employees, and across all levels. For example, Lloyds Banking Group has recently launched a new executive MBA apprenticeship aimed at existing leaders within the business.
With around 70,000 employees across the UK, Lloyds Banking Group is continuing to place huge value on apprenticeships as a talent strategy and is developing and expanding its apprenticeship programme to accommodate this. We now have over 35 different apprenticeship programmes available to colleagues across all areas of our business. We are well on track to achieve our ambition to support 8,000 apprenticeships by 2020, and have ambitions to support other employers, especially SMEs, to boost their own apprenticeship offering.
While there have been challenges, the introduction of the apprenticeship levy has been a catalyst to transforming the perception of apprenticeships. Since 2018, levy payers have been allowed to transfer 10 per cent of their levy to other employers to fund apprenticeships. This represents a further step forward in apprenticeship policy.
For Lloyds Banking Group, apprenticeships are truly part of our long-term ambitions for future growth and development. This year, the organisation is celebrating the importance of apprenticeships in its sponsorship of the new Rising Star category at the fifteenth National Apprenticeship Awards, and we will continue to actively encourage employers big and small to look at how apprenticeships can truly benefit their business.
Kathryn Marshall is senior manager, apprenticeships at Lloyds Banking Group