You’d be forgiven for questioning the value of adult learners in light of recent reports criticising the government’s apparent failure to target youth unemployment through apprenticeship programmes. Instead, latest statistics show that the number of adult learners enrolled onto an apprenticeship programme rose by 6% in 2015 compared to the previous year, meaning a lower proportion of apprentices are under 19 as opposed to the number of adult learners.

Apprenticeships are being cited by the government as key to building a strong UK workforce, who are happy and secure in their roles and can compete with the impressive skills demonstrated by the international community. Vocational learning can be a great option for many adults, whether they are looking to develop their knowledge and work their way up the career ladder, find a route into employment or change careers entirely.

Benefits to businesses

But why should businesses continue to advocate apprenticeship programmes for the over 19’s when they go against government agenda? Vocational learning can be of great benefit to both businesses and learners. It provides organisations with the opportunity to shape and mould individuals to best suit the company as well as provide those learners with a sense of direction and freedom to control their destiny. Such learning on the job quickly allows employers to pinpoint an individual’s strengths and weaknesses as well as draw out how they might progress in the future.

Incorporating learning and development opportunities into a robust and inclusive training strategy can offer support to existing staff, as well as help employers to meet their business needs. Training will not only help to create a team of skilled individuals, it will also allow them to feel valued. Findings have proven that motivated staff are more productive and more likely to stay with a company for the long-haul, minimising the loss of organisational knowledge and experience. Data released by employee benefits company, P&MM revealed that employers can expect to gain nearly four years length of service when the good work undertaken by an employee has been recognised by their manager or a colleague.

Training programmes can also be tailored to suit the needs of a business, and apprenticeships, in particular allowing a business to cover the theoretical side of learning whilst instilling in learners their own company values. They also give companies a competitive edge by ensuring workers have the up-to-date skills they need to be innovative and bring new ideas to the table.

One factor which may put employers off investing in their staff’s education and training is cost. However, funding is available and in most cases you don’t have to pay this money back. For most grants and bursaries, companies can apply directly to the organisation that provides them, whether course-specific or education grants. For help and more information, you can visit the government website or Turn2us, which offers a handy online grant search.

It is also likely that any cost will be recouped quickly as companies are essentially ‘growing their own talent’, saving on expensive recruitment costs and increasing productivity. According to a recent survey by the CV-Library, 90.5% of employees would stay at a company if they were given the opportunity to be trained and developed further, with P&MM’s research going on to reveal that it can cost employers up to £30,614 per employee to replace them and it can take up to 28 weeks for workers to reach optimum productivity.

The economic benefits

In 2013, The Department for Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS) conducted an extensive report on the economic and social benefits of adult learning in the unemployed to try and determine the value, if any, of adult learning programmes.

The research of almost 2000 people not in employment found the experience of adult learning was an exceptionally positive one. Almost half of women and a third of men found employment following the completion of their course, and most felt they had a more defined career plan. The majority were also enthusiastic about learning and their future as a result.

There is also the issue of building a strong UK workforce that can keep up with the rest of the world, in terms of both skill and work ethic. Giving all those who are eligible to work, regardless of at what stage in their careers they are, access to careers advice and training, as well as the opportunity to view and share best practice, can play an important role in helping them to achieve this.

Supporting lifelong learning

In today’s education landscape, there are training and qualification options available to all, regardless of age or career. People are no longer confined to the career choices they made at school, and employers are waking up to the benefits lifelong learning can bring to the business.

Busy Bees Training currently delivers 37% of its apprenticeship programmes to adult learners because the settings recognise that people are at the heart of their success, a true statement no matter what your industry. A continuous learning journey allows a workforce to keep up to date with new and innovative ideas, and demonstrates a business’s willingness to invest in their future.

Regardless of government agenda, adult learning brings great benefits to both businesses, individuals and the UK economy, and its value should be recognised and encouraged at every opportunity.

By Fay Gibbin, training manager at Busy Bees Training