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Why Apprenticeships Are Such a Great Idea!

I recently attended the Oxfordshire Business Awards which recognised some of our county’s finest companies and individuals and there was one category which really caught my eye – The Oxfordshire Apprenticeship of the Year Award. It was won by Nielsen whose best practice in this area is inspirational.

I spoke to Nielsen’s HR team about the way they use apprenticeships to grow their own talent and develop the skills their company needs to provide cutting-edge market intelligence to businesses in the UK and internationally – and I’ve used this to inform my blog.

If you are thinking of taking on an apprentice for the first time or further developing your apprenticeship programme, then I hope this will be useful.

The Apprenticeship Levy
The Government-backed Apprenticeship Levy was introduced earlier this year as a way to encourage employers to invest in apprenticeship programmes and to raise additional funds to improve the quality and quantity of apprenticeships. Not all businesses have to pay into the Levy, only those with a wage bill of more than £3 million.

Although this was a huge change for many businesses, Nielsen were already investing in their scheme. The business feedback and performance of apprentices had been exceptionally high and they were therefore already looking to grow the scheme year-on-year.

Nielsen hopes that with the government so invested in apprenticeships – and the high publicity that this brings – that recruiting for apprentices will become easier. It has historically been tough as you have to approach parents/teachers to break the apprenticeship ‘stigma’ as much as you have to sell the opportunity to the potential apprentice.

More businesses are taking on apprentices
Despite this challenge, more companies than ever are offering apprenticeships. The results are clear with a recent survey of 114 organisations finding that 83% of student employers have apprenticeship programmes this year, and they expect to hire at least 12,281 apprentices between them. This is an increase of 4,581 apprentices compared to 2016.

Intermediate-level apprenticeships made up the largest share of programmes by volume (4,492), followed by advanced apprenticeships (3,967), and higher apprenticeships (3,320). Intermediate apprenticeships were also expected to increase at the fastest rate this year (287%).

As the statistics show, there are multiples levels of the business that apprenticeships can be offered at – not just graduate or beginner level. This is something I feel that Nielsen does extremely well with the introduction of their Level 5 Apprenticeship Scheme in 2014 (which has since recruited 26 apprentices), a Level 3 Scheme in 2016 (recruiting four), and a newly-created Level 6 Degree Apprenticeship (13 apprentices hired to start in September 2017).

The benefits are clear
To be beneficial for both parties, apprenticeships must offer real-world experience. Nielsen Apprenticeships are so successful because they combine studying (at different levels) with the hands-on experience of working for a global company.

What's also unique with a Nielsen apprenticeship is that a guaranteed role will be offered after the scheme.  In fact, 100% of Nielsen’s apprentices stay with the company after finishing the scheme compared to the 77% national average.

The benefit of this to the apprentice is clear – a guaranteed job. But there are clear benefits for the company too, with apprentices being 25% more employable than those who took an alternative route into work.

Other business benefits include:

  • Grow your team while keeping staff costs down: The average apprenticeship completer increases business productivity by £214 per week.
  • Make hiring simpler and cheaper: High-quality training providers help you with the entire process: recruiting an apprentice, customising a training programme, accessing funding, and much, much more.
  • Develop new recruits to meet your needs: 82% of employers take on apprentices to build the skills capacity within their businesses.
  • Flexibility for existing employees: Free up your existing workforce so they can do what they do best.
  • Give your team new skills and energy: 96% of apprentice employers say they are beneficial to their business.

Key points to consider
Although there are obvious benefits for both parties, Health and Safety, Equality and Diversity, Personal Development, Behaviour and Welfare policies all need to be considered.
It’s really important to choose a provider that mirrors your company values and supports your vision for the apprenticeship scheme. You must also ensure strong buy-in from the business to provide ongoing support for each apprentice.

Starting your own company apprenticeship scheme
There are plenty of government resources which can help you on your way, such as this website. And there are also lots of exceptional companies in Oxfordshire that can suggest the right option.
Oxfordshire Apprenticeships are excellent at giving you the information you need and are very active in schools and colleges. I would also suggest talking to other companies which have some experience of launching programmes.

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