Mastering the future of apprenticeships
The government’s interest in increasing the number of apprentices in the UK has been public knowledge for some time now. The intention is twofold: increase the number of young workers in employment and ensure the development of skills that are vital for a productive economy.
The 2008 financial crisis and subsequent recession was bad news for many young workers, with job cuts and older workers choosing to remain employed for longer. All this meant that there were fewer jobs available for new workers hoping to get a foot on the jobs ladder. The government’s drive to increase apprentices is seen as a perfect opportunity to remedy this problem. It is also an affordable scheme for businesses seeking to expand its workforce.
This last point was made clear in the recent Autumn Statement 2014, with the news that employers no longer have to pay national insurance contributions for apprenticeships – welcome news as the country creeps out of recession and most business remain cautious on the issue of expansion.
Every year there are around 500,000 people starting apprenticeships in England, with only 7% of businesses offering the opportunity. It’s a small number, concentrated around a handful of industries. Successive governments have worked strenuously to encourage more businesses to consider taking on apprentices – a good example of which is the removal of national insurance contributions as offering the sort of incentives that will tempt more businesses to sign up.
The government’s target of 3million more apprentices looks very ambitious. Yet behind the scenes it is working hard to match apprentices with businesses who have a genuine need for apprentice-level skills. It is not simply tokenism or achieving policy sound bites; the emphasis is on demonstrating how apprentices can add real value to the right businesses with the long-term aim on permanent recruitment.