Increased productivity and ROI – Why business leaders think apprentices could transform your company

6 Minutes

What is an apprentice?

The traditional image of a 16 year-old opting for a vocational introduction into the working world is outdated - think graduate-level sales people, experienced staff looking for a change in career or dedicated team members keen for the chance to develop. Today, these are your apprentices.

The introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy in 2017 has changed the landscape of training and upskilling for businesses across the country. Greeted with controversy and initially viewed as a financial blow, the Apprenticeship Levy has not been welcomed with open arms. Now, six months on, company owners, CEOs and directors are starting to change the way they address apprentices and think about how their company can benefit.

Applicable to all UK companies with a pay bill above £3 million, the Levy aims to get businesses thinking about apprenticeships – and what these ‘new’ apprenticeships could really do for their business. Find out more about what businesses have to pay towards the levy and what you can do with it here.  

To better understand how companies feel about the Levy and how it can benefit them, we’ve delved further into the matter. We commissioned a survey to ask the UK’s business leaders how they plan to address the Levy. With the help of this data and the expert opinion of central sales director Andrew Wiles, we reveal exactly what business leaders think about the Apprenticeship Levy.

Things are on the up

Business leaders are starting to warm to the idea of the Apprenticeship Levy after initial concerns about the feasibility of training a large number of apprentices, the costs involved and the lack of information available on the Levy

We found that more than six months in, a massive three quarters (76%) of the CEOs, directors and senior decision makers surveyed feel the Levy is a positive thing for the future of their business.

A substantial majority (70%) of these business leaders believe that investing in training for staff will boost productivity and 65% say they it to increase ROI. From this, it’s clear there is potential for businesses to benefit substantially from hiring an apprentice. Making use of the funds for training then seems not only the obvious choice, but a potentially profitable one.

There has also been a shift in perceptions of what the scheme can actually be used for. The term ‘apprenticeship’ seems to be a bit of a misnomer and belies the true width and depth of this new training, and what it can do for all levels of your business. Half of respondents said they’re planning to recruit and train graduates, while 46% said they want to train senior members of staff.

However, if you plan to upskill existing staff members, the benefits to morale in the team are also substantial. Pareto’s Andrew Wiles said: “The Levy has reimagined the way we view and approach apprenticeships. An experienced individual now has the opportunity to realign their goals with a new role. A competent professional can bring a maturity of character and rounded life skills which will be valuable to your company.”

What are they investing the money in?

We’ve seen that the UK’s business leaders are starting to see the Levy as an opportunity to grow their bottom line and improve productivity. This begs the question, how do they plan to do this and what are they investing the money in?

Our data reveals a resounding 62% of respondents plan to invest in IT and technical sales training, 36% plan to spend the funds on customer services skills, and a third want to use the money for B2B sales skills.

From these figures, it’s clear that business leaders plan to increase productivity and boost ROI by upping their sales performances. Integral to the modern business, a highly skilled sales department can pave the way to the overall success of a company. By investing in the development and growth of their sales team, it seems this is how the business leaders of today plan to make the most of the Levy.

Andrew said: “When taking on an apprentice, the initial investment is lower in the junior end. Historically, there have always been reservations about taking on someone so junior due to the level of development they would need. However, the levy encourages you take that on and the new programme will account for the level of training they receive. To get the most out of this money, a sales apprentice is the ideal choice.”

He explained that this is part of the search for new and innovative ways of developing businesses, and using the Apprenticeship Levy to do so: “Businesses want to know how to maximize their returns on the Levy. Investing in sales people will impact their commercial engine and boost profit. They want to increase performance productivity, improve morale and retain their sales talent for long term benefits.”

What are business leaders looking for in apprentices?

To further understand how business leaders think apprentices can transform a business, we’ve taken a glimpse at what attributes they’re looking for when hiring an individual. The respondents highlighted IT skills (46%), communication skills (23%), sales and business development skills (20%) and industry knowledge (18%) as the most desirable attributes in any candidate.

Among this mix, it’s interesting to see soft skills representing in the top, most valued attributes. Rather than measurable academic, or ‘hard skills’, soft skills are usually identified as personal attributes that contribute to effective communication with others. Just as modern day sales roles have only recently been considered a highly skilled position, ‘soft skills’ are now earning their place as a key attribute in the work place. Bosses are now looking more closely at these attributes when hiring.


What if you don’t pay the Levy?

If your company has a pay bill of less than £3 million, you can still reap the rewards of apprenticeships.

You can apply for apprenticeship training that is funded through a process called co-investment. This means you pay 10% and the government will cover 90% of the costs of training up to the funding band maximum. This way, you can still benefit from apprenticeships and boost your ROI.

Despite initial concerns, it seems that business leaders across the UK are actively thinking about how best to invest their Apprenticeship Levy funds. Andrew Wiles says it’s absolutely key to start using the money and make the most out of the Levy: “It’s a no brainer. You’ve got an opportunity to invest back into your people and showing that kind of commitment is essential to attracting and retaining talent. The business that adopts an active approach to the Levy will not only feel a substantial ROI, but will attract a whole new calibre of individual to their company.”

Check out our Leveraging the Levy infographic. 

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