#NAW2021: Is there demand for apprentices?

Simon Reichwald, Strategic Lead for Talent

“Depending on the source and data you draw upon, current apprentice numbers are both up and down. Government statistics show that since the launch of the Levy overall numbers have decreased, specifically at Intermediate Level (down by almost 50%, from a peak of almost 500,000). Advanced Level numbers are largely holding their own, and Higher Level are up by approximately 50%.

As always, the reasons for this are many. The Levy as a principle is welcomed, as are the new employer-led standards. But, the mechanics of it all, along with the pace of change – or lack of it – from Frameworks to Standards have been a hindrance; funding of apprenticeships for SMEs through the Levy have also been a causality. Adding to this the impact of Covid on the economy, the result has been negatively driven coverage around apprenticeship numbers, alongside a subliminal narrative that apprenticeships are not needed nor in demand.

So rather than yet another piece around the numbers, let’s focus on the concept of apprenticeships – are they good, and if so, who for?

Apprenticeships are for all, not just young people. However, the impact of Covid has been significant on many young people, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds. Early careers apprenticeships should be a key part of firms’ wider talent strategies, especially when considering what businesses need to succeed in the current climate. It is promising to see the government incentives in place to hire apprentices, alongside funded programmes such as Kickstart as a feeder apprenticeships.

 So, what do businesses need to succeed?

  • Our world and economy are changing and fast, with technology quickly becoming an integral part of everyday life. There is a need for new skills to remain competitive.
  • We have an ageing workforce, and here in the UK, Brexit is already impacting who we can easily hire. We need to address this faster than we currently are.
  • An agile workforce is needed to ensure businesses can adapt and change – and at pace.
  • A diverse workforce – and at all levels – is needed to ensure businesses maximise their talent. This means not only driving this at entry level, but championing progression and retention of current employees.

But, how do we build a workforce with new skills that is agile and diverse?

Some of the key ways apprentice talent achieves this:

  • Apprentices acknowledge they are there to learn and work (an ideal mindset in any employee!)
  • Generation Z are more conscious than any other cohort of the fast- changing world and the need to adapt.
  • The talent pool for future apprentices is highly diverse.

How do you deliver the benefits of your apprentices, once hired?

My current work with the Government-commissioned City of London Taskforce provides me with a surprisingly powerful and unexpected answer. This taskforce centres itself around improving socio-economic diversity at a senior level within the Financial and Professional Services sector. Whilst this clearly does not focus on apprenticeships, my conversations with senior leaders who come from lower socio-economic backgrounds drove a powerful theme forward. Many of these leaders shared with me, very honestly, that a key contributor to their success was the provision of mentoring or sponsorship from another individual during their early career.

This highlights a solution for how businesses can maximise their existing talent to thrive, particularly those from underrepresented groups – and apprentices are no exception. Providing apprentices with mentors both maximises and accelerates their performance, delivering direct benefit to business. To achieve this at scale in the virtual climate, minimise demand on internal resource and eliminate geographical restrictions, businesses need to leverage technology to deliver their mentoring programmes.

Our candidate and employee engagement platform, Connectr, using smart tech to match Mentors to Mentees and delivers meaningful interactions that support apprentices through their journey, and maximise their potential. Mentoring success and impact are measured through data reporting at the touch of a button.

Young people and apprenticeships are not the ‘lost generation’ they are labelled to be by the media, but instead a generation that provides a powerful solution to employers that maximises the huge amount of talent the UK has to offer.

To chat further, drop me an email! simon@mykindafuture.com