Apprenticeships: the common misconceptions

Apprenticeships: the common misconceptions

Chris Timms, a group board member at Haines Watts, emphasises the importance of apprenticeships

Government efforts to encourage apprenticeships have suffered another setback. Official figures showed a 30% fall in registrations over the past year, meaning that the government target of three million apprenticeships by 2020 looks further away than ever.

An increase in university fees means that more and more of the future workforce for accountancy are looking for a different route into their careers. Restricting the positions available to graduates stops a diverse section of the population from accessing certain careers. With the shortage of skilled labour increasing, this pool of workers could bring huge benefits to companies of all sizes.

So why aren’t more businesses making apprenticeships available? SMEs cite plenty of reasons for avoiding apprenticeship schemes, but many of these fall apart under concentrated scrutiny.

Here are a few of the most common myths about apprenticeships that need to be challenged.

Apprenticeships are only for entry level applicants

You don’t have to be ‘young’ or straight out of school to start an apprenticeship. Many automatically assume that apprenticeships have an age cap but, in most cases, applicants can be any age when taking advantage of these opportunities. Apprenticeships can provide anyone with an alternative trajectory for learning a new profession within an established business.

Apprenticeships are also a great funnel for recruitment. If businesses are struggling to find the right people or to get them to stay, these programmes open the door to talent that can grow within the business.

Through apprenticeship schemes, businesses are able to discover exceptional employees who have the potential to become tomorrow’s rising stars – employees who would otherwise never have set foot inside the door.

Investing in technology is more important than people

As technology develops, and is implemented more widely, it is beginning to  feature in even the most traditional sectors.

It is important that people are trained in the appropriate new technology and methods to ensure the highest efficiency.

Nonetheless, as a result of embracing technology so quickly, a skills gap in middle management has been identified in many professions.

Investing in technology helps move the business forward; however, making sure this works in tandem with continued investment in the training of people is incredibly important. Every facet of business requires an element of human leadership, and, in an evolving profession such as accountancy, many clients look for the human relationship as much as they do service or product delivery.

Investing in apprenticeships helps to foster this human connection, as well as fresh thinking. Existing employees can develop personal skills, such as coaching, managing, and training the next wave who join the workforce.

At the same time, apprentices can provide new perspectives, often incorporating technological advancements, and identifying how they may improve to fit into the current ways of working.

Apprenticeship schemes are expensive to establish

Another misconception that surrounds apprenticeships is that they are expensive to establish. It does have an initial cost to set up and promote, but that cost is relatively small. The long-term return on investment will usually be exponentially higher. The more time and effort you spend investing and promoting the growth of an employee, the longer they are likely to stay within your business. The Board at Haines Watts has many members who have been in the business since the end of school or university.

It is also important to note that, for businesses under the £3 million salary banding, there is tax free funding available to support apprenticeships –  an opportunity that all businesses that qualify should take advantage of. Plans can be put in place to use this funding to fill any gaps within the business, from past training programmes, or holes that have been created through the natural turnover and development of staff.

The government is fully supporting the drive for more apprenticeships, as they see the value it brings to the future landscape of businesses.

Apprenticeships need to follow a systemised programme

Existing frameworks and apprenticeship programmes are a great point to start building from. For optimum success it is important to tailor the scheme to the individual. It may seem good enough to have taken on an apprentice in the first place, but understanding them, training them, and matching their skills to the future is probably more important.

Each apprentice is an individual and has a unique set of skills. To get the most value out of the programme for the business and the apprentice themselves, the key is in understanding where their strengths lie. If you get to know the individual, their apprenticeship can be tailored to ensure the highest benefit for all parties involved.

Apprenticeships can be a great way to kickstart – or even restart – investment in the business. Well-established schemes can bring in a consistent wave of enthusiastic employees who are excited to learn, and therefore fill the business with new energy.

The common misconceptions that surround apprenticeships are often myths that have only a limited amount of relevance. It is time for businesses of all sizes to take advantage of the incentives the government has put in place and begin to discover what an apprenticeship programme can lead into for your own business.

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