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  • Lee Calver
  • 4 March 2014
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You’re hired: are apprenticeships good for business?

The seventh annual National Apprenticeship Week 2014 takes place between 3 and 7 March, with the intention of highlighting the appeal of apprenticeships to both employers and workers.

According to research from the Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT), apprentices delivered around £1.8bn of net economic benefits to UK organisations last year, suggesting a significant return on their investment, with economic output often exceeding average wage and training costs.

These findings are further validated by recent research from The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, in which high percentages of employers reported improved product and service quality (72%), enhanced productivity (68%) and even increased morale and organisational reputation, from hiring apprentices.

However, recent figures show that for every one apprenticeship offered, there are 12 applicants, and although 37,410 vacancies were posted online between August and October last year (up 24% on the previous year) applications jumped 43% to 461,530.

This is despite the fact there is a lack of awareness of the Government's apprenticeship offer and its benefits, particularly amongst smaller companies. Around 60% of small businesses surveyed as part of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills' August 2013 research did not have a basic knowledge of the Government's programme and the support available, such as subsidies and expert advice.

The picture is no clearer for the people intended for the positions either. Despite increasing tuition fees, university is still the most encouraged route towards employment from schools, with 42% of men and 46% of women advised to get a degree. However, research shows that many regretted their choices; over half (54%) of the young professionals surveyed said that if they were leaving school now, they would choose a different career path.

There is also a gender divide, with men being twice as likely to be encouraged to take an apprenticeship as women, according to new research from the City & Guilds Group. Of 2,000 young professionals surveyed, a third of men were encouraged to take an apprenticeship in school, whereas just 17% of women received the same advice. The gender divide was also found in the 18-24 age group, in spite of high youth unemployment levels. Only 23% of women in this age group had been advised about apprenticeships, compared with 32% of men.

Other key findings from the research include:

  • Parents hold the most influence when it comes to choosing a career (60%). This was followed by teachers and work experience (both 44%).
  • A quarter of men (25%) were encouraged to go straight into work versus 21% of women.
  • 22% of men and 32% of women received no guidance on pursuing any specific industry.

The objectives of National Apprenticeship Week 2014 are to increase awareness, understanding and demand for apprenticeships, celebrate apprenticeship talent, skills, achievements and successes, and promote all apprenticeship levels and progression routes, including traineeships.

The overarching theme for National Apprenticeship Week 2014 is Great Apprenticeships – arguing that ‘great businesses’ are made by apprentices and apprenticeships lead to ‘great prospects.’ We’re interested to know your apprentice stories – either as an employer or your experiences as a route into work. Join our debate.