Simon Hill: Why apprenticeships are good for business

Apprenticeships are good for the economy, says Simon Hill.
Apprenticeships are good for the economy, says Simon Hill.
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NATIONAL Apprenticeship Week – an opportunity to highlight and celebrate apprenticeships and the positive impact they have on individuals, businesses and the wider economy. In my view, there is much to celebrate.

Put simply, apprenticeship programmes are good for business. Based on how robust and carefully crafted programmes are, they have the potential to strengthen a business in terms of recruitment, operations, employee satisfaction, and profitability.

At YPO we have been running an apprenticeship programme for a number of years so I’ve experienced first-hand the benefits that such a programme delivers. However, don’t just take my word for it. There are plenty of statistics to reinforce why more businesses and organisations should seriously consider investing in such a scheme.

Apprenticeships provide businesses with an invaluable opportunity to develop fresh talent, whilst motivating their existing workforce with new ideas and innovative ways of approaching everyday tasks.

Young people bring a unique set of skills, particularly around new and emerging technologies. It is evident at YPO that existing staff are learning from our apprentices. Research has shown that nearly 92 per cent of companies that run apprenticeship schemes believe that apprenticeships have led to a highly motivated workforce and increased levels of employee satisfaction.

Data from the National Apprenticeship Service highlights that 80 per cent of businesses that invest in apprentices have reported a significant increase in employee retention. Moreover, more than half (57 per cent) of businesses report that a high proportion of their apprentices proceed to stay on with the companies and go on to acquire management roles.

The National Apprenticeship Service has also shown that three-quarters of businesses with ongoing apprenticeship programmes claim that the schemes have made their workplace more productive.

According to the Centre for Economics and Business Research, a typical apprentice can grow a business through productivity gains of over £10,000 annually. The benefits to the regional economy are clear but if more Yorkshire-based businesses introduced an apprenticeship scheme, this could make a dramatic impact on reducing the skills gap across the region.

However, despite such positive feedback, negative perceptions persist amongst some businesses and young individuals. It is time apprenticeships were able to shake off this old-fashioned view that they are an ‘easy way out’ or a second best option to a more traditional university route to employment.

Young people should not be reluctant to take up an apprenticeship for fear that it will not result in full-time employment, or that a candidate with a university degree will receive preference over them.

For career-focused individuals, a comprehensive apprenticeship scheme is an ideal way to gain first-hand, practical experience in a real working environment. It not only equips them with essential skills and knowledge pertaining to their preferred line of work, but exposes them to the rewards and challenges of the job from a very basic level, enabling them to appreciate these factors as they grow to take on full-time roles at a company.

Similarly, many businesses, hesitating to offer apprenticeship schemes because of the required investment in training or the concern about losing trained staff to a competitor, should instead focus on the fact that nine out of 10 employers hoping to achieve gains from an apprenticeship programme vouch for its success.

At YPO, we recognise the positive influence that an apprenticeship programme has on individuals, our organisation, and the regional economy. We have just rolled out our 2016 apprenticeship programme, with eight apprentice positions available.

Since the programme started in 2011, almost 40 young people have gained substantial training and work experience. This year, positions are open to young people interested in developing skills in business administration, information technology and warehouse operations.

This National Apprenticeship Week, I’d like to encourage more businesses to commit to an apprenticeship programme and help to develop the wealth of talent that we have across the region. Likewise, I’d like to encourage more young individuals to consider apprenticeships as a legitimate alternative route to employment and a promising career.

Simon Hill is the Managing Director at Wakefield-based YPO, the UK’s largest publicly-owned buying organisation.