12/05/2015

By Tony Wilmot, co-founder, staffbay.com

A recent study by the Skills Funding Agency (SFA) revealed that 669,300 learners participated on Apprenticeships in the first two quarters of the 2014/15 academic year, and there were 248,700 Apprenticeship starts.

This is good news for the economy, and good news for those getting the skills they need to prosper.

It is great to see that the continued necessity of apprenticeships is being recognised around the UK now, and across a variety of sectors.

Apprenticeships are vitally important in two ways. Firstly, they help growing businesses in the city show that they are serious about supporting the workforce of the future, and secondly, from an employees’ point of view, they can offer a way into industries that are sometimes very difficult for younger people to move into and make their mark. The government is absolutely right to push the apprenticeships agenda, and it should be offering significant tax breaks for those companies which take them on.

Certain industries are in desperate need of skilled workers to fill widening gaps. Apprenticeships are an excellent way to nurture these skills in young people, and provide the help that industries such as engineering and automotive desperately crave. They can also make significant inroads into the problems of NEETs, and offer an opportunity for those either who don’t have the grades or the desire to enter further or higher education. Years of valuable of experience is also obviously gained, for both employer and employee.

The truth is, offering apprenticeships not only helps businesses, but also has a wider impact on the whole of society. The more people that are in work, the fewer benefits the government has to pay out. This way, there is more in the taxpayers’ pot to spend on the areas which can enable further business growth, such as tax breaks for SMEs. Apprentices are part of the virtuous circle of enterprise.

If we compare the importance of apprenticeships now to say, 20 years ago, we can see that the value of the role is absolutely still there – but perhaps in a different way. So many of the UK’s traditional industries, such as manufacturing or engineering, have changed out of all recognition over the last two decades, and many young people are unaware of the opportunities that they can offer.

These industries also often have a reputation as offering jobs for men in dirty overalls who bash metal all day. The reality, more often than not, couldn’t be further from the truth, and so the more young people who enter these industries, the more will follow. We need the next generation, and the ones following, to learn the skills we need to keep these industries alive.