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The stigma around apprenticeships is changing. Gone are the days when people viewed work-based learning as a “back-up plan” in the event of a university application failing. Apprenticeships are becoming a first choice for young people looking to enter the professional environment early, while continuing to gain new skills.

Over the past year, apprenticeships have been a talking point for many businesses, especially as the Government recently announced its plan to impose an apprenticeship levy, hoping to help finance three million new apprenticeships across the UK by 2020. Events like National Apprenticeship Week and the National Apprenticeship Awards are helping to promote the value of apprenticeships in the workplace, but more can still be done to make businesses aware of the benefits work based learning can bring.

So, what do we really know about apprenticeships?

Apprenticeships aren’t just for the traditional sectors

It’s time to bury the myth that apprenticeships are still confined to just traditional, “manual” roles such as plumbers, electricians and construction operatives. As industries and jobs have developed, so too have apprenticeships, and a range of employers from small and large businesses are now offering young people a gateway into their chosen careers and reaping the benefits. From aerospace and law to media and the armed forces, apprenticeships are available in over 170 industries, in more than 1,500 roles. For example, Christian Ebeling gained the skills needed to succeed in brewing following an apprenticeship as an assistant brewer at Caerphilly based Celt Experience Brewery in Wales.

Many successful businessmen and women started as apprentices

Some of the UK’s most famous faces started their careers as apprentices, including celebrity chef Jamie Oliver, global football star, David Beckham, and celebrity hairstylist, John Frieda. A recent Telegraph study reported the combined worth of the UK’s wealthiest former apprentices equates to £20 billion, the equivalent to the price of two Wembley stadiums!

Apprenticeships could help UK businesses gain an additional £18bn of revenue each year

It might surprise you to hear that apprentices can encourage customer spending. A 2015 report by the Centre for Economics and Business Research revealed that 25% of consumers say they are prepared to pay up to 2% extra on products or services offered by companies who employ apprentices, potentially equating to an additional £18bn of revenue for businesses each year.

Nine out of ten employers view apprentices as the key to their future success

Nurturing and developing a highly skilled workforce is essential for businesses to remain at the top of their game. It may be hard to believe, but currently more than 50% of SMEs in the UK suffer from a lack of digital skills. Apprentices can offer businesses a way to bring these much needed skills into the workplace, as simply the younger generation is exposed to social media and the digital world. Not only can apprentices teach existing staff new skills and bring new perspectives, but, in equal measure, the on -the-job training provided by employers allows apprentices to develop skills required to benefit the business.

57% of UK businesses report a high proportion of their apprentices going on to management positions within the company

Apprenticeships give young people an early route into a career so they can show their potential from a young age, gain confidence quickly and accelerate up the professional ladder. To this end, apprenticeships are often a good way of producing loyal employees. A recent report by the Skills Funding Agency showed 90% of apprentices stay in employment after finishing their apprenticeship, 71% of these with the same employer.

By Steve Doyle, Managing Director of Itec Skills and Employment