How are apprenticeships revolutionising workplace training?

4 Minutes

In days gone by, apprenticeships were a career step reserved for school leavers – but times have changed. Now, the government has pledged more than 3 million new apprenticeships by 2020. The new Apprenticeship Levy has brought about a major revolution in the way apprentices are perceived and utilised.  

Gone are the days when an apprenticeship was a stop-gap for young people unsure about which direction their future was headed. No longer are they simply entry-level, trade-based schemes for those just starting out in the working world. Existing staff and university graduates can take on apprenticeships, which now cover everything from traditional technical expertise to soft skills like leadership, sales and customer service. Apprenticeships are having their day in the sun and investment in them will play a vital role in boosting productivity in UK business.

The apprenticeship landscape is shifting – but it should be a much-welcomed change. After all, few businesses would turn down the chance to upskill employees or bring in fresh talent. Employers are now being given the opportunity to be at the helm of skills development programmes.


The changing face of the apprenticeship

For young people, combining working, learning and earning has always been an attractive proposition. Apprenticeships have been around for hundreds of years, but it was with the introduction of the modern apprenticeship in 1995 that they became a viable, vocational option. Now another seismic shift has occurred and employers too can reap the benefits of apprenticeships.

Owing in part to the Apprenticeship Levy - which came into force in April 2017 and affects all companies with a wage bill of more than £3 million - businesses are now rethinking dated perspectives on apprenticeships. The levy is charged at a rate of 0.5% of the employer’s pay bill, and the money is put aside by the government in a special account. The funds can only be accessed by a business to pay for apprenticeship training.

Despite initially expressing concerns about the cost, employers are beginning to sit up and take note of the huge opportunity the levy is providing.


Thanks to the levy, many employers are considering apprenticeships for the first time.

It’s no longer about starting with a qualification and applying the industry theory to a job role, but about developing the right skills for the job via bespoke training that has been informed by the needs of the employer. This work-led rather than academic-focused approach provides training which is much more applicable to the needs of the business.

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Experience is everything

Until recently, the majority of apprentices made the leap from school straight into work – a big leap, offering little practical experience in workplace situations. But the new type of workplace-based training works towards bridging that gap between education and experience.

We surveyed a number of CEOs, directors and senior decision makers around the UK and found that many recognise the advantages of investing in staff training at all levels. Almost three quarters (70%) of those surveyed said that investing in staff training has a positive impact on the productivity of the business.

The benefits of workplace training for an employer are invaluable. Employees are learning and developing their skills within the business, adapting to its unique practices and tailoring employee knowledge and skills to the company– which is why employers shouldn’t only be looking to hire entry-level apprentices but also investing in development opportunities for existing staff too.

Levy funding paves the way for the training and development of both new and existing staff – whatever their age, background and qualifications. Every business should be using this to its advantage to fill skills gaps and enable staff to reach their full potential.

They are also allowing softer skills such as sales, communications and social skills to become part of the training revolution. With an ever-broadening range of apprenticeships and employer demand for soft skills on the rise (with 60% of those we surveyed stating that soft skills training has had a positive impact on business) apprenticeships have the chance to make a real difference to the way we do business.


The future is bright

Apprenticeships are now a bright prospect for employers. The result of upskilling new and existing staff is a generation of motivated employees who are better embedded in the business, competent and efficient in the tasks of their role and know that their employer cares about their long-term career development.

We’re on the verge of major change for the UK’s employers – the Apprenticeship Levy and the government reforms of apprenticeships will ensure huge emphasis is placed on recruitment and in-house skills development. Apprenticeships may have been around for a long time but these tailored courses, created to meet the needs of the business, will have a great impact on both employers and employees alike. It’s an exciting time for the apprenticeship.

Find more about the training and apprenticeships available with Pareto here.

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