Now’s the time to consider apprenticeships

Hiring managers in Milton Keynes face a challenging time sourcing and attracting highly skilled employees, as the job market in MK swells and the population to job ratio sits at 1.12 (Source: NOMIS) openings per individual. Therefore, employers need to consider alternative recruitment strategies to develop their talent pipeline.

To shine a light on how apprenticeships can help address your recruitment and talent challenges, MK College is taking part in National Apprenticeship Week, which runs from 3 - 9 February; we will celebrate and showcase the high calibre apprentices and their success stories, along with our partner employers. The campaign focuses on encouraging employers to #LookBeyond preconceptions and take the time to understand how apprentices are #makinganimpact in businesses large and small.

Is it the right time?

It’s never been a better time to consider apprenticeships as part of your talent recruitment and development strategy. The changes implemented to apprenticeships over the last few years offer real benefits to businesses, delivering a positive impact on both new and current employees, with a range of higher level apprenticeships able to support the growth objectives of companies. Summarised below are some of the key changes and benefits, to help with your decision-making process.

Quick recap on apprenticeships

Apprenticeship funding is available for businesses to invest in training and developing of their apprentices (future talent) or in upskilling existing employees via the apprenticeship standards. The new standards develop ‘industry standard’ knowledge and skills in a specific occupation; the standards have been created by ‘trailblazer’ groups of employers and industry experts and are fully aligned to today’s business needs. In 2020, the government estimates the funding available for apprenticeships will have risen to £2.5 billion.

Some key facts

The apprenticeship levy is paid by large employers with a pay bill of over £3 million (they pay 0.5% of their total annual pay bill). Currently, only 2% of employers pay the levy, but this funding has helped support almost 50% of all apprenticeships in 2017/18.

The levy is there to fund apprenticeship training for all employers. Smaller employers – those with a total annual pay bill of less than £3 million – pay just 5% of the cost of their apprenticeship training and the government pays the rest.

The government has extended the amount of time employers have to spend their levy funds from 18 to 24 months. Levy paying employers can now also transfer up to 25% of their Levy funds to other employers.

The national marketing campaign to get behind apprenticeships as well as regional marketing support from MK College has driven a growing pool of talented and highly motivated individuals who are looking to develop a career in your industry. At MK College we’ve seen an increase in applications from individuals aged 19 to 23, who have experience of work and a good level of education – this presents a significant opportunity for hiring managers.

Four benefits of apprenticeships for employers

Attract the right calibre of people to fill your vacancies - Apprenticeships are designed to attract and retain employees who are committed to their chosen career path by developing and acquiring the right skills, experience and qualifications. MK College provides end-to-end recruitment services delivered by our experienced hiring managers, and our team will work with you to ensure we find the right apprentice for your business. We invest in ongoing recruitment campaigns, and keep warm activities, to seek out the high calibre candidates who are looking to excel in their career.

Develop and retain your talent - The apprenticeship levy has been designed to be flexible to meet employers’ needs and is a great way to develop your people throughout the lifecycle of their career, from early years to career progression or for those looking to change career. Higher level apprenticeships offer the opportunity to support employee transition to more senior roles, acting as a retention tool as well as an effective way to upskill your existing workforce. So, as well as attracting new talent to your organisation, it can be the perfect way to invest in your employees – ensuring you stay ahead of the competition and reduce your cost to recruit new staff.

Adopt an industry driven approach to your training with apprenticeship standards - Over the last few years, apprenticeships started to move from ‘frameworks’ to ‘standards’, and by the end of 2020 all apprenticeships will be offered to new learners based on standards. The switch to this approach is to ensure the training for each apprenticeship is fully aligned to today’s ever-changing business needs - with the learner developing the ‘industry standard’ of knowledge and skills in their chosen occupation - as created by employer groups known as ‘trailblazers’.

The apprenticeship standards ensure delivery of very high quality programmes, with the learner assessed by an independent assessor through an End-point Assessment period, to ensure learners are fully competent in their role.

Make use of the apprenticeship levy and incentives - SMEs with fewer than 50 employees can benefit from fully funded training costs for apprentices aged 16 to 18. The government incentives include a bonus of £1,000 for 16 to 18 year old apprentices, and there is no employer National Insurance contributions for apprentices younger than 25.

Over the last few years of connecting with a range of businesses, we’ve found that employers have some misconceptions around apprenticeships, how they work, entitlements, the structure and their commitments. If you have any questions or are interested in further details on how apprenticeships could work for your organisation, then please contact the Apprenticeships Team via Apprenticeships@mkcollege.ac.uk or on 01908 637056, and a member of the team will be happy to help with any questions you may have.

MK College has been shortlisted for Apprenticeship Programme of the Year in the TES FE Awards 2020.

Employer viewpoint – Blue Chip

David Bevan, Training and Development Specialist at Blue Chip shares his advice about taking on apprentices:

I would recommend any employer to take the leap; the reward from developing the right internal structure to support apprenticeships will be worth it. We’ve experienced an 85% apprentice retention rate! One of our biggest success stories is an apprentice moving from engineering to sales and marketing, working his way up to Director of Sales and Marketing.

To ensure your apprenticeship programme is a success, it is important for the senior leadership team to see the value of apprentices and support the wider drive across the business – buy-in at this level can determine the success for both the apprentice and your organisation. If possible, consider a dedicated resource or function to work with your apprenticeship providers, this will aid effective management of the programme and provide support to your leaders and managers. Additionally, consider the costs to bring in new members of staff – the levy covers the apprenticeship training, but you will need to budget for most of the same costs as a standard employee, however, don’t forget for apprentices under 25 there is no employer contribution to National Insurance.  

Another great way to use apprenticeships is to upskill your current staff, with an ageing workforce apprenticeships provide the perfect solution to developing your people. There are lots of different standards and levels, and higher level apprenticeships are a great way to grow your leadership talent from within.

We’ve recruited four apprentices across a variety of roles from IT infrastructure to electronics and engineering, through our apprenticeships partner of choice, MK College. Their commitment to the delivery of excellent customer service has stood out. From recruitment and candidate assessment through to onboarding and continued support and communication, the team have been nothing short of phenomenal. Finding the right apprenticeships partner can make all the difference to the overall success of your programme – take the time to research providers and carry out due diligence, good providers will be happy to share their achievement rates and employer references with you.

Picture of David Bevan picture with three of the four apprentices; Kieran Regan (left), studying Level 3 standard in IT Infrastructure; Henry Salliss and Jack Wade (right of David), studying Level 3 framework in electronics and engineering.