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Measuring the Business Benefits of Apprenticeships


Think of apprenticeships and trades like plumbing, engineering and bricklaying might spring to mind. But just as Britain's work patterns have changed since the days when heavy industry dominated so have apprenticeships. Today's apprentices can choose to train in accounting, human resources and even training and development.

Over a million young people have signed up to this 'new-wave' of apprenticeships since they were first launched in 1994 and, to give you an idea of the rate at which young people are signing up, more than a quarter of those are currently in training.

This demand may be down to young people's fears of university debts or maybe just a smart way of beating the common college-leavers catch-22 when employers want experience as well as qualifications. Either way interest among 16-24 year-olds is strong, with a recent survey showing that up 61% favoured vocational training over the university route.

Interest among employers is also growing, Nicky Brunker, head of national marketing for the learning and skills council, says that since the latest apprenticeship campaign started in earlier this year 15,000 employers have enquired about the schemes, the over-all target for 18 months is 33,000.

She feels that this is due to a new understanding between employers and young people of the benefits of the apprenticeship route.

"Young people are more savvy, they understand that it will take up to three years to train and establish a profession. They know they can progress very well, for instance at BT four out of 12 of the engineering senior management team are former apprentices."

Business Benefits
And of course this sense of long-term commitment has its rewards for employers - BT has calculated its annual net profit on an apprentice as £1300, compared to non-apprentice recruitment.

Research carried out by British Gas found that apprentices on the in-house training programme were on average 25% more productive and qualified three months quicker compared to externally trained engineers.

At Tesco a new scheme launched in February this year provides 70% of its management curriculum and in the long term the supermarket chain hopes that apprenticeships will reduce the cost of recruiting managers.

Both Tesco and British Gas cite their apprentice retention rate as an enviable 95%. According to Nicky Brunker, attaining such a high rate is down to the sense of investment apprentices feel a company is putting into their development and their careers.

Nicky says: "Apprentices respond to the amount of investment they feel they are getting from their employer. Orange for example have a 98% retention rate and that is because young people recognise the quality of training they are getting."

Tailoring Training
Employers have a direct input in the kind of training developed for their apprentices, but are not completely alone.

Nicky explains: "When an employer gets in touch with the Learning and Skills Council, we ask a few questions to get a picture of their needs and then assign a suitable training organisation which specialises in their area. Together they tailor the training plan."

At the moment apprenticeships are purely for those aged 16-24, but there are plans to expand the scheme to other age groups. Employers can also choose to enrol existing employees in the 16-24 age group on to an apprenticeship programme.

* Find out more by reading the business case studies of BT, British Gas and Tesco or visit the apprenticeships page.


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