Why employers should invest in recruiting more apprentices

12 Sep 2019 By Rob Nitsch

Apprenticeships can form a valuable part of businesses’ training and development arsenal, says Rob Nitsch

Modern apprenticeships are an increasingly popular option for training the next generation of outstanding HR professionals. As the reform programme takes root and the old-style apprenticeships (known as frameworks) come to an end in July 2020, it’s worth looking again at how apprenticeships can help upskill your workforce.

Reformed apprenticeships (known as standards) in HR support and HR consultant/partner provide rigorous training from entry up to advanced levels. They have been developed by a mixture of large and small employers – with big names including McDonald’s, Volvo, BT, Jaguar Land Rover and Civil Service Learning. The CIPD also offers associate membership aligned to learning and development apprenticeships at consultant/business partner and practitioner level.

These carefully tailored apprenticeships for the sector have steadily grown in popularity as they’ve been rolled out to employers and the public over the last couple of years.  

More than 4,000 people of all ages started on them over the last academic year, which was more than double the level of participation during 2017-18. Standards are adding value to businesses and drastically improving skills provision and career prospects for learners.

Employers, that know their sector’s skills needs better than any civil servant, have been placed in the driving seat for deciding what high-quality training each standard requires. They decide on the knowledge, skills and behaviours that must be mastered before apprentices get the chance to demonstrate that the necessary occupational competence has been acquired through independently delivered and assured end-point assessments.  

Apprentices are also now required to spend at least 20 per cent of their time undergoing off-the-job training to supplement their learning on the job. The Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education has received a huge amount of encouraging feedback on the quality of apprenticeships, notably from the legal, film and television, fashion, science and pharmaceutical, and finance sectors.

And beyond HR, the wider apprenticeship offer is expanding all the time, with almost 500 standards now available. More and more firms are looking to directly train – instead of importing – their staff, and a significant majority of apprentices are remaining with the employer that trains them. Training through apprenticeships is a great way of generating loyalty and long-term commitment and attracting staff; around 50 per cent of learners start on their apprenticeship before they are 25. 

It is also important to note that apprenticeships now operate across the occupational spectrum – standards-based apprenticeships exist across the economy, at all levels of occupation, and are not constrained to those entering work. They run from level 2, which is GCSE-equivalent, all the way up to master’s degree level, across all 15 of the business and industry sectors recognised by the Sainsbury review, and are a good means of upskilling and developing a workforce. For example, in the construction industry there are apprenticeships all the way from level 2 bricklayer up to level 6 building design engineer.

Standards-based apprenticeships provide a huge variety of fantastic high-quality options. They are increasingly becoming an essential part of businesses’ training and development strategies, both in the HR discipline and the wider labour market. Employers that have been dependent on framework apprenticeships must rethink their approach in the coming year, and there is excellent guidance and support for those looking to sign up with the programme for the first time. Now is the time to look again at your apprenticeship programme and see what more it can do for your organisation. 

Rob Nitsch is chief operating officer at the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education

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