Apprenticeships: All Sides of The Story

The UK has seen its fair share of apprenticeships news stories, but many of them offer conflicting views. Some views are extremely positive and offer hope, where others remain dubious and negative towards implementation.

For example: research from Grant Thornton suggests that 77% of the younger generation think apprenticeships offer good career prospects…

Yet nearly 50% of company managers polled by CMI revealed that they think the Government will fail to hit its target of creating 3 million apprenticeships by 2020.

In this article we aim to explore how employers and apprentices feel, as well the those in government and the education sector.


Employers and Apprentices

Apprenticeships offer a unique option for many of those under the age of 25. With university fees skyrocketing, it’s no wonder that many teenagers see an apprenticeship as a more affordable option.

We’ve already discovered that 77% of young people believe in them… But 79% of the parents also believed them to offer good career prospects.

construction apprentices

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68% of the younger individuals polled said that they didn’t receive good career advice. Many being pushed towards going to university, even when it wasn’t always the best option.

Apprenticeships offer the opportunity to get on the job training, where you get paid as well as earn a free qualification. This is funded by the government if you’re under 25. For many, it’s a no-brainer.

A staggering 86% of employers currently recruit apprentices. 50% intend to hire even more within the next 5 years; encouraged by the new Apprenticeship Levy. The Levy is a tax on larger employers to fund training at work.


Recruitment and Prospects

Despite a rise in apprentice recruitment, 44% of employers don’t use apprenticeships as a means of upskilling their workforce.

Even more worrying for apprentices is that 1 in 5 employers forget or are unaware that they lose their ability to use Levy contributions 2 years after payment. This in turn could cause employers to let go of apprentices.

apprentice recruitment

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On top of all of this; 67% of universities, colleges and schools are first in the recruitment process for entry level roles. This leaves students with the dilemma of choosing between education and work.

The Levy itself is also a dilemma in that larger employers may be put off of employing apprentices. This means less funding for smaller employers who wish to take them on.

There are around 30% less apprentices now than there were 1 year ago, before the Levy was introduced – coincidence?


Achievements and Advanced Programmes

It may seem doom and gloom from the recruitment side, but there is hope. Apprentices in the UK are actually achieving their goals and moving onto more difficult studies.

In 2016-17, 277,800 people completed an apprenticeship in England – the highest number since comparable records began in 2002, according to the BBC.

advanced apprenticeship

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In addition to this, 40% of apprentices start at a more advanced level than those applying for intermediate roles. 7% are at at even higher level than advanced. This shows a true thirst for knowledge and learning.

It comes to a 10% increase in the number of advanced and higher level apprentices in the last 5 years. Surely this is positive enough news for those considering an apprenticeship?


The Apprenticeship Levy

The Levy was introduced in April 2017 and it should only really affect 2% of all UK businesses. You only need to pay towards the levy if your company has wage bills over £3 million.

If you have wage bills under £3 million then you have to pay 10% towards the cost of the apprenticeship. The other 90% is then funded by the government. You only pay nothing if the apprentice is aged 16-18 and you have less than 50 total employees.  

apprenticeship levy

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The Levy is there to raise £2.8 billion in 2018, to put towards the funding of apprenticeships. But many find the levy confusing and wires keep getting crossed.

A survey of more than 1,000 employers, by the Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development (CIPD), suggested ⅓ of employers currently pay towards the levy.

They also found that 22% of business have no idea if they need to pay the Levy or not. And that 1 in 10 businesses are writing the Levy off as a tax. Lack of understanding results in less apprentices being taken on and less funding for them in the long term.


Where Does Everyone Stand?

It’s a good question and unfortunately not one with a straightforward answer. The government introduced the Levy in order to gain the funding needed to increase the number of apprenticeships in the UK.

But with many employers not understanding how it works, how to pay, if they should even be paying or refusing to pay puts the funding for further education at risk.

confused businessman

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However it’s not all doom and gloom. If you’re a younger member of the public who wants to continue learning (without the need for university), then an apprenticeship is still perfect for you. Even those over 25 have the ability to apply and gain funding – it’s not just for young people!

Your options for an apprenticeship may be limited for now, however there are hopes that apprenticeships will open up in more sectors – allowing more choice for teens who wish to earn as they learn.

With more information and guidance for employers, there are high hopes for apprenticeships in the near future. We may still reach that 2020 goal.

You can find a full list of apprenticeships available to you via the Apprenticeships website.

Feature image credit: goodluz via 123RF

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