During National Apprenticeship Week many organisations, spanning all sectors, bang the drum for vocational learning. Apprenticeships are an option that have gained popularity in particular areas, especially the traditional blue collar occupations, but it is evolving to encompass a wider range of vocations and company sizes.
Where apprenticeships in professional services were once a rarity, they are now increasing in number as there is a growing realisation that more routes should be open to careers in sectors such as financial services. For years, university was the way most potential candidates found their way into their chosen careers, but with figures showing an 8.7% decline in applications, there are signs that people are already on the hunt for alternatives. Apprenticeships give bright and ambitious people high level qualifications while receiving invaluable on-the-job-experience and earning a wage.
The problem is that many businesses don't see apprenticeships as a viable way to introduce and train new members of staff. Some don't believe apprenticeships are relevant to their sector and so the pace of adoption isn't as quick as it should be. The wider adoption of apprenticeships among companies of all sizes will rely on a change in the perception of the schemes and the benefits they can have.
Among small companies, the most popular reason for taking on an apprentice is to build skills capacity within the company. A rising number of small businesses recognise apprenticeships as a valuable way of growing their companies and bringing enthusiastic new recruits through their doors. But in order for the economy to grow and for the record unemployment levels to be addressed, there need to be more small companies with this mentality - companies that are willing to commit to the use of apprentices.
The Financial Skills Partnership is working with employers of all sizes to develop new Higher Apprenticeship frameworks. We have been awarded government funding to create Higher Apprenticeship frameworks in banking and insurance. We are also working on a programme led by PricewaterhouseCoopers that will initially offer 1,500 apprenticeships across tax, audit and consulting.
In addition, the government is offering small companies incentives of up to £1,500 to hire young apprentices. This will support up to 20,000 new apprentices over the next two years.
We firmly believe more employers will see the benefits of having apprentices, including the smaller ones who will be able to tap into the frameworks for higher apprenticeships that is currently being developed. These should help them attract the talent they need by offering valuable training to industry-recognised national standards.
When combined with the new specialist SME services offered by the National Apprenticeship Service there is a lot taking place to enhance the future for the sector. Apprenticeships offer many advantages for all businesses, both large and small. The infrastructure is shifting to become conducive to greater participation among small businesses and that is a good thing both for the sector and the UK economy as a whole.
For more information about the Financial Skills Partnership click here, www.financialskillspartnership.org.uk
For further information about apprenticeships click here, www.apprenticeships.org.uk