As National Apprenticeship Week gets underway, small businesses should take some time to consider whether an apprentice could enhance their operation.
While it will require extra commitment from senior management to find, recruit and create a training scheme for an apprentice, the benefits are numerous.
"More consumers and employers are recognising the benefits of apprenticeships and the value of the high quality training available,” said David Way, chief executive of the National Apprenticeship Service.
What can apprentices bring to the workplace?
A report from The Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) released to coincide with National Apprenticeship Week revealed that apprentices can boost a company’s productivity by £214 a week through the added skills they bring to the workplace.
This is corroborated by West Cheshire College’s Apprenticeships ‘Good for Business’ Survey, which was carried out last month and revealed that 92 per cent of employers believe apprentices play a vital role in their operation.
A key aspect of this is how cheap apprentices are for businesses. They only have to be paid a minimum salary of £2.65 an hour, or around £100 a week. This is much lower than the actual minimum wage of £6.19, making apprentices very affordable.
What’s more, apprentices can actively be trained up to become the future of the business. Managers can shape them exactly to the specifications of the job and, as they are typically young and with little workplace experience, they are unlikely to bring in any bad habits. The West Cheshire College survey found that 75 per cent of businesses intend to train apprentices to become future managers.
“This is critical for a small business – bringing in an apprentice, with the opportunity to train them in a particular department, or team, or even giving them exposure to all facets of your business, ensures that you train somebody from the outset in your style of business,” Steve Bridge, head of the business account team at West Cheshire College, wrote in a Forum of Private Business (FPB) blog post.
Fifty-nine per cent of employers even say that apprentices help to bring innovative new ideas to businesses to help them grow, which is up from 44 per cent in 2011.
Support from the government
Apprentices are not just good for employers and the individuals employed, they are highly beneficial to the economy as a whole.
CEBR revealed that 3.8 million apprentices will generate a total of £3.4 billion for firms in the UK, which helps to raise the skills of the country’s workforce and ensure it can become much more competitive.
“This is a vital part of rebalancing the UK economy and raising the chances of sustained export-led growth,” said Charles Davis, head of macroeconomics at CEBR.
This gives the government incentives to provide support to employers who are looking to take one on. David Cameron explained this week that he wants apprenticeships to become the “new norm” for young people, alongside going to university.
The government’s Apprenticeship Grants for Employers (AGE) offers businesses who haven’t recruited an apprentice in the last 12 months to receive a £1,500 grant for each one they employ aged 16 to 24, up to a total of ten.
Boris Johnson has also announced that apprentices are to be given 30 per cent discount on Transport for London travel cards, which should benefit around 40,000 who live and work in the capital. Over a year, the discount can total up to £660 and this puts less pressure on businesses to cover travel expenses.
The National Apprenticeship Service has revealed a 41 per cent increase in the number of people applying to do an apprenticeship, with 267,400 applications submitted online between November 2012 and January 2013. This provides a huge, affordable talent pool of people small businesses can draw upon to help their operation grow.