Rachael Fidler discusses the advantages Apprenticeships offer businesses and explains the framework they provide for the development of staff at all levels of an organisation

Regardless of the size or your organisation, or the sector you operate in, continuous improvement in efficiency, productivity and employee engagement is critical to success.

One of the most effective ways of attracting, harnessing and motivating talent to improve business performance is through initial training and continuous development of staff at every level of the organisation.

The Apprenticeship Framework provides the perfect model to recruit and train new staff and offers a structured, accredited career pathway for the existing workforce. The business benefits of improving knowledge, skills, confidence of individuals through the Apprenticeship programme include:

  • Cost effective recruitment
  • Development of a well-trained, well- motivated workforce
  • Help with the costs of training
  • Increased productivity through better trained staff
  • Improved business performance
  • The opportunity to demonstrate your commitment to staff development
  • Great way of giving responsibility to members of staff to mentor new trainees

Earlier this year, the Government gave their commitment to Apprenticeships by setting an ambitious target to create three million new apprenticeships by 2020. In the 2015 Summer Budget the Government set out plans to introduce a levy on large employers to create a fund supporting apprenticeships however, much of this detail has yet to be finalised and the Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) in the autumn will determine the allocation of funds for the delivery of Further Education and skills in England.

For some time now employers from every industry have been participating in groups known as ‘Trailblazers’ working alongside awarding bodies and training providers to review the Apprenticeship standards and assessment methods in their sector to ensure levels, content and outcomes are matched to the needs of employers. New funding approaches are currently being trialled for the updated Apprenticeship Frameworks giving employers greater control over spending on training delivery.

So what is an Apprenticeship?
An apprenticeship is a real job – with training – where the Apprentice achieves a set of qualifications including a competency based qualification (formerly an NVQ), a technical certificate to prove their knowledge, and other skills including Maths, English and ICT.

Apprenticeships are available at different levels:

  • Intermediate Apprenticeship (Level 2)
  • Advanced Apprenticeship (Level 3)
  • Higher Apprenticeship (Levels 4 -7)

The majority of people embark on an Intermediate Apprenticeship before progressing to an Advanced Apprenticeships that are linked to the skills and knowledge required to progress to the next level of the organisation such as supervisor or manager. Higher Apprenticeships offer a great alternative to further and higher education to develop the skills needed in more senior roles.

Statistics from the National Apprenticeship Service show that 80 per cent of employers say that their apprentices make their workplace more productive and 92 per cent of organisations believe apprenticeships lead to a more motivated and satisfied workforce. No wonder that an increasing number of businesses are offering apprenticeships.

Whilst an apprenticeship enables staff to develop and meet or exceed a set of clear standards, Apprenticeships are a long-term commitment which require finance and time. On average an apprenticeship programme takes between 12–18 months, enabling participants to develop their knowledge, competence, literacy, numeracy and ICT skills relevant to the needs of the sector and individual business.

However, using the apprenticeship framework to design and deliver a matrix of training and development, which is delivered in the workplace will provide organisations with a practical solution to increase their employees’ skills, knowledge, commitment and motivation. Introducing this structure also leads to improved performance and assists succession planning ensuring operational effectiveness within budget restraints. In addition staff become more motivated as they receive nationally recognised qualifications – providing them with improved career prospects and job satisfaction.

Establishing a successful Apprenticeship programme…
As the employer you play a vital role in ensuring the Apprenticeship programme is successful by supporting learners throughout their training, providing required assessment opportunities and giving feedback to the training provider on the teaching, learning and assessment process to ensure the programme is reviewed regularly in relation to existing and emerging needs.

The first step in introducing apprenticeships in your organisation is to make contact with your local training providers. Choose one that offers free organisational/training needs analysis to identify your training requirements. They will then work with you to determine the provision that will meet your requirements.

Next, sector experienced staff will help recruit new apprentices and design flexible training which meet the needs of your business, new staff and the existing workforce. As part of this, qualified trainers will identify the support needs of individual learners and workplace mentors, providing resources and additional support to ensure the aims and objectives of each Apprenticeship are achieved.

The Apprenticeship starts with a comprehensive induction programme to explain essential information to both you and your learners. From that point onwards the training organisation should deliver:

  • High quality training which takes into account individual needs and abilities, specific job skills, occupational competencies and the demands of the working environment
  • A well-managed and co-ordinated course that meets expected outcomes
  • Regular meetings with you and each learner to review progress, provide training, support and feedback on achievements
  • Training Consultants who set high professional standards, are committed to the promotion of learning and are competent and well qualified in their subject/vocational area
  • Opportunities for learners and employers to give feedback on the training and services provided
  • A safe, healthy, inclusive environment, which complies with Health & Safety regulations.

Southampton company Vanguard Fixings Limited introduced Apprenticeships in 2011. Here Aoife O’Neill, Director explains the benefits Apprenticeships has had on the business. “Choosing the apprenticeship training programme has provided a wealth of benefits to the organisation. It has given us the opportunity to tap into the youthful enthusiasm and to train these new employees in our working techniques to perform in the work place; without previous habits intervening. Their fresh initiative and willingness to work and impress at such a young age has also inspired senior staff members at our company. We can definitely say that the apprenticeship scheme has added massively to our working team and we would recommend it to any employer.”

Rachael Fidler

Rachael Fidler is Managing Director, HTP Training. HTP Training has become one of the leading work based training providers in the country. It specialises in working with business leaders from a wide range of sectors to develop their staff, achieve business goals and access Government funding. In addition to providing Traineeships and Apprenticeships it offers a full range of vocational training programmes and short, intensive courses to meet it clients’ needs.