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A week in training: Businesses report benefits of apprenticeships


Two surveys to mark Apprenticeship Week find strong backing from employers for the scheme, writes Claire Savage. The government kicked off the week with the announcement of more apprenticeships in the public sector. Elsewhere, the Chartered Management Institute entered the debate about migrant workers, retail managers can win scholarships to an Oxford summer school and it's time to enter the 2009 National Training Awards.

Public sector to extend apprenticeships
Apprenticeship Week kicked off with the announcement of another 21,000 placements in the public sector over the coming year. Currently the public sector employs 20% of the national workforce but offers fewer than one in ten apprenticeships.

The government also stipulated that all construction firms and local authorities must take on apprentices in the Building Schools for the Future programme - creating up to an extra 1,000 apprenticeship places. The project aims to rebuild or refurbish secondary schools in England.

Employers report benefits of apprentices
Meanwhile eight in every 10 employers believe apprentices help to generate higher productivity, according to a survey by the Learning and Skills Council.

The survey, of 500 employers that use apprenticeships, found that 81% said hiring an apprentice helped increase work output. Two-thirds (66%) believed apprentices helped them to be more competitive. More than 82% said they relied on their apprenticeship programme to give them the skilled workers needed for the future.

Elsewhere, a new Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development skills survey also showed employers feel there are business benefits in apprenticeships.

The government aims to increase the number of apprenticeships on offer to an annual target of 130,000, and has set aside just under £1bn to achieve this next year.

More than three-quarters of respondents (78%) to the survey of 800 employers felt the government was right to introduce new targets. A similar number said there were clear business benefits in employing apprentices (76%).

The report found that employer awareness of initiatives to cut bureaucracy and simplify funding was low with only 7% knowing of the National Apprenticeship Service (NAS) – due to start operating in April - with the same proportion indicating an understanding of the matching service, which links young people with suitable employers.

The CIPD survey also showed that while more than two-thirds (71%) of employers felt that the new 14-19 diplomas represented a useful new route into employment for young people, many were sceptical that diplomas would be valued on the same level as traditional academic qualifications. Less than a half (44%) thought that diplomas would make young people better prepared for the world of work than current academic qualifications.

Free summer school for retail managers
Skillsmart Retail has teamed up with Retail Trust to offer ten free places to the Oxford Summer School.

The week-long residential Summer School, held in August at Oxford’s Keble College, normally costs each delegate more than £1,750, but Skillsmart Retail and Retail Trust are offering 10 bursaries to up-and-coming managers.

Applications form can be downloaded from the events section of

Migrant workers – skills matter, not country of origin, says CMI
Chartered Management Institute chief executive Ruth Spellman has entered the debate on migrant workers.

From April, migrant workers will have to have at least a master's degree - rather than a bachelor's degree - and a previous salary of at least £20,000 to qualify. The Home Office estimates that it will almost halve the numbers coming in from 26,000 to 14,000.

This comes against a backdrop of research, undertaken by the Chartered Management Institute*, showing that 66% of managers believe they benefit from exposure to different societal cultures.

Spellman said: “The issue is how we make the UK workforce competitive, highly skilled and able to operate on a global scale, so that employers will be able to recruit and promote the best people. It isn’t about country of origin, but about helping many businesses that are short of skilled labour.”

Food safety
Supermarket chain Morrisons is the first UK organisation to join a new accreditation scheme from the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH), which is designed to endorse training programmes that support health, hygiene and safety. The RSPH's independent experts examined the food safety training programmes provided by the supermarket group.

Michelle Walker, Morrisons training manager, said: "This expert assessment by the RSPH has really helped us to enhance the quality of our training programmes, confirming that they meet recognised standards and deliver real value to the organisation. Having this accreditation demonstrates to our staff and customers our commitment to high quality training and we look forward to further developing this relationship in the future."

Digital Britain discussion
A new internet discussion site to encourage an online debate about the Government's vision for a fully digital economy and society is now live.

Minister for Technology, Communications and Broadband, Stephen Carter said: "We understand that there's huge interest in the Digital Britain report and have already seen a flood of comments posted on various websites and blogs. So today we are opening up our own online forum for the report, imaginatively titled”

Credit where it's due
Finally, get some credit for your hard work with the 2009 National Training Awards.

Run by UK Skills, the awards celebrate stories of how training has transformed businesses, organisations and communities.

The closing date for this year’s entries is Friday 24 April.
Free information sessions about the awards and how to enter are being held throughout the UK during February and March. For more information phone 0800 0191 475 or email [email protected].


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