Creating Apprenticeships to Boost Your Bottom Line

23 March 2017

ruthsmith1FOLLOWING National Apprenticeship Week and a new levy due in April, Dr Ruth Smith, Chair of the Local Enterprise Partnership’s Skills and Employability Board, shared how apprenticeships can create the skilled and inspired employees needed for high performing organisations.

”AT the Local Enterprise Partnership, helping ensure businesses have a workforce with the skills they need both today and tomorrow is an essential part of our work. Apprenticeships offer businesses a unique way to achieve this. Not only can they help address the technical skills gap in our economy, but their on-the-job training provides the employability skills such as interpersonal qualities and emotional intelligence that businesses so often tell us they need. Combined, these are crucial to improve our business productivity.

As a Board and Executive Coach, I’ve visited many different organisations, and highly productive ones are very inspiring to see. When you walk in, you notice the difference immediately. People are confident and engaged, not confused or resigned. They understand their role within the organisation, its strategy and plan. Employees are skilled and energised. Importantly, this is what makes the difference, not only on the ground – but to the business bottom line.

The obvious way to find such inspired and skilled employees is by recruiting and developing the right talent. Organisations find it relatively straightforward to recruit people with the right knowledge, but find it more difficult to establish how they will perform in the work place. Will their new employees show initiative? Will they have good interpersonal skills, and do they have high levels of emotional intelligence? Personally, I recruit people more on these types of skills. I have found that acquiring knowledge is an easier area for development than training someone to use their initiative, or to be accountable and responsible.

Organisations that have employed apprentices find they can more easily develop the skills they really need. Whilst employing someone, they develop them in the standards and values of their organisation. They will certainly develop their knowledge and technical skills, but more importantly train them in how they want them to perform. I have worked with many business leaders, and when they are making all important senior promotion decisions, the home grown candidate frequently has a huge advantage over the external recruit.

There is no doubt that taking on apprentices has many advantages. They enable you to develop in your specific markets; they provide an opportunity for solid succession planning, and because you can take on apprentices for any job in your company, you can tackle skills shortages. They are a tried and tested way to recruit new staff, retrain or up-skill existing staff. And it’s not only businesses who benefit. For our workforce, including our young people who are looking to develop their careers, apprenticeships offer fantastic progression opportunities. The combination of hands on experience, a salary and gaining technical skills and qualifications alongside work, offer an unrivalled opportunity to get careers started.

There are many great examples in our region of how businesses are already working well to create apprenticeship opportunities. The national increase in apprenticeships in engineering for example has been reflected locally. In 2010, Derwent Training Association had 25 new starts in engineering apprenticeships and this has risen to around 60 this year. The engineering sector is currently very skewed towards men and at Derwent Training Association this is something they are particularly trying to improve.”

Natasha Pitts who has been with Dale Power Solutions in Scarborough for six years has taken two apprenticeships in electrical and electronic engineering. These have resulted in her receiving a foundation degree from Hull University. Natasha said: “Both apprenticeships have allowed me to develop electrical and electronic knowledge in an industry environment that I have been able to apply directly into the work place. My colleagues have been very supportive indeed.”

To coincide with National Apprenticeship Week, at the Local Enterprise Partnership we have published our apprenticeship strategy. It sets out how we are working with our partners and supporting businesses to create more apprenticeship opportunities, improving the quality of apprenticeships and supporting more people to access apprenticeship vacancies.

Additionally, through our How’s Business Growth Hub we have published a digital eBook to guide employers through all elements of hiring an apprentice. It is to help businesses determine whether investment in apprenticeships will support their business growth and development. It also gives more detail regarding changes due to take place regarding the way government funds apprenticeships in England. In April, all employers with a pay bill more than £3m each year will be required to invest in apprenticeships. Our How’s Business website also refers businesses to organisations who can support them to take the next steps with their apprenticeship recruitment.

You can view our strategy here or download our eBook here. We’re really interested in your views so do get in touch through the website and we hope the information helps you eventually take on an apprentice of your own.