What are the myths around training apprentices?
It is well known that the UK needs two million more engineers and technical staff by 2025 to stay globally competitive. The Recruitment and Employment Confederation agrees, saying that training more apprentices is the key to securing a pipeline of talent for the future.
And yet, when other businesses talk to me about apprenticeships, the question they often put to me is, why bother?
Some say that apprenticeships are too expensive and complicated and after investing money and time in training them they will move on.
Of course, the business case needs to be right, but the evidence from our own workforce is that apprentices are loyal and give a great return on your investment. If you treat apprentices properly they won't leave you. Many of our apprentices stay with us, and the majority of our managers started as apprentices.
If the advanced manufacturing and engineering (AME) sector doesn't start training new engineering apprentices, where is the new pool of talent going to come from?
What are the advantages of training apprentices?
Our success at JJ Churchill Ltd has a great deal to do with our apprentices - but what are their advantages? Why should more companies take them on?
- The levy makes hiring apprentices a no-brainer
Some businesses have struggled previously to justify the expense. The introduction of the levy takes away that decision with a "use it or lose it" system.
It's easy to see the levy as "just another tax". But if you haven't already started training apprentices, it is a dedicated pot of money waiting to be spent – either on new apprentices or retraining and upskilling existing staff of all ages. Best spend it on your business rather than waste it!
- Increased productivity
CEBR research says that the average successful apprenticeship increases productivity in AME business by £414 per week on average. A portion of the productivity gains from apprenticeships is passed on to workers as higher wages. The remainder will go to employers as increased profits. Meaning a better pay packet for our employees and increased growth for our businesses – something we can all celebrate.
- Energise your business with the best new talent – especially on tech
One of the things I love most about hiring apprentices is their enthusiasm and passion. The recent Industry Apprentice Council (IAC) report shows that 98% of engineering apprentices love their career choice. What a fantastic endorsement.
What apprentices bring to a business is a new perspective and enthusiasm. This is extremely important when thinking about the pace of technological change. Our apprentices already have a grasp on emerging technologies like Artificial Intelligence. They are an essential resource for the company to navigate the changes we are seeing and will help us make a success of these new technologies.
Tips for a successful apprenticeship programme
A lot of companies will be looking at setting up an apprenticeship programme for the first time. We've been running our model for a long time, and there are a few key things we did that others could copy:
- Engaging with local schools
Schools are the primary source of apprentice talent.
Making your business available for school trips, organising talks with current apprentices from your business and offering work experience and internships to local students helps to spark an interest in engineering and builds links with talented students who may end up coming into the business in future.
- Find a partner who can help
It's important to find a partner with experience of managing and delivering excellent apprenticeship programmes who can offer advice and support.
Trade bodies are a good place to start or local training providers. Semta can also help. They are an expert on apprenticeships in manufacturing and engineering and are well placed to help businesses set up successful apprenticeship programmes.
And while I have talked about the levy here, all the principles of apprenticeships still apply to smaller businesses that don't pay the levy.Apprenticeships are a win-win for employers in our industry. They are an extremely cost effective way to fill your skills gaps and you get enthusiastic and skilled engineers, trained in your ways and culture. Why wouldn't you?