Getting the right people in the right place at the right time is an essential part of strategic business planning. Apprenticeships can form part of this strategic approach, as they offer employers the ability to nurture and develop the skills and the workforce they need for the future, and to bring bright new talent into their organisations. As well as providing an important access route into the labour market, especially for young people, apprenticeships can improve social mobility and drive inclusivity if employers provide fair access to their schemes and widen the talent pool from which they recruit in terms of gender, ethnicity and diversity.

Developing future talent

The transition into work has become longer and riskier across all OECD countries, and is partly associated with a shift in the type of jobs young people do: young people today are far more likely to work in temporary jobs than older workers, and may struggle to find stable and well-paid work for a number of years. This presents problems not just for the young people themselves, but for organisations struggling to build future talent pipelines too.

HR professionals have a central role to play in developing future talent, and the CIPD has produced a wide range of resources to support them. The Learning to Work guides cover everything from youth-friendly recruitment practices to managing future talent, to help organisations reach out and support the development of young people.

In response to recent news of UK employers struggling to fill roles with the right candidates as a result of both labour and skills shortages, John L. Marshall, CEO of The Adecco Group UK & Ireland, said: 

‘It is encouraging that some employers are beginning to look to new solutions for their future workforce with investment in retraining and apprenticeships, but many more need to begin this planning and investment in their workforce.’

Apprenticeships that work

While many employers recognise the importance of offering access routes such as apprenticeships, the practicalities of introducing anything new can be a stumbling block. To overcome this issue, the CIPD offers employers help with designing and running high-quality apprenticeships that support business and workforce strategies.

The CIPD guide for employers on apprenticeships that work outlines the business case for offering apprenticeships as well as the far-reaching benefits for society, and provides practical information on the steps employers need to take to set up a successful apprenticeship programme. Key takeaways to ensure success include:

  • winning the support of the existing workforce
  • providing fair access to apprenticeship schemes
  • embedding programmes into a long-term workforce planning strategy.

Offering apprenticeships can help to improve social mobility and diversity within organisations - a benefit which the Royal Opera House recognised when they introduced their apprenticeship scheme: 

‘We wanted to improve the socioeconomic and ethnic composition of our teams as well as tackle gender bias in a number of roles (carpentry is traditionally “male” and costume, for example, is “female”) and we thought one way of doing this was through our apprenticeship programme.’ 

Bendy Ashfield, Apprenticeships Manager, Royal Opera House 

As well as improvements to diversity, apprenticeships can support staff retention and engagement, and offer a means of developing an existing workforce through increased innovation and productivity: 

‘When the apprentices began, we started to notice a real ideas exchange between them and the more experienced workers. After a while we were being approached by colleagues who work in our Innovation team asking to meet our apprentices to gain insight and feedback from them – they were almost like consultants!’ 

James Lawrence, Apprenticeship Programme Manager, Visa Europe

Apprenticeships reform

In light of their commitment to deliver three million apprenticeship starts by 2020, the UK Government has reviewed the apprenticeship system. The most significant change will be the imminent introduction of an apprenticeship levy. From 6 April 2017, all UK employers in the public and private sector with a pay bill of over £3 million will have to contribute to the apprenticeship levy (0.5% of their annual pay bill). This marks a turning point in the history of modern apprenticeships in the UK; by shifting more of the cost onto employers, the Government hopes to inspire them to either expand existing or introduce new apprenticeship programmes.

Employers must begin to prepare for these changes now or risk losing out. With these fundamental shifts to the funding model, it’s more important than ever for all employers to better understand how to design and deploy high-quality apprenticeships to bring maximum benefit to their organisations. The CIPD’s guide for HR and L&D professionals to the apprenticeship levy explains: 

  • who has to pay the apprenticeship levy
  • how you can access your funds
  • who and what you can spend your funds on
  • how much you can spend
  • what counts as an apprenticeship.

Embedding success

Workforce planning – having the people in place to deliver short- and long-term objectives – should be a core part of any organisation’s overall strategy. To succeed, apprenticeships should be embedded in a workforce planning approach with clear business benefits, as part of a long-term strategy on workforce growth and skills development.

The CIPD is supporting an employer-led L&D Apprenticeship Trailblazer that is seeking to create a new Level 3 and Level 5 L&D apprenticeship. To date, there are a number of companies supporting the application including: BT, MoD/RAF, Jaguar Landrover, Volvo, McDonalds, TNT, Carillion, Interserve, Compass-Group, the NHS, Sainsbury’s, several local councils, and Specsavers. 

The CIPD is inviting its members to submit their views and support for the initiative by the deadline of 10 March 2017.

Follow #NAW2017 on Twitter to see what other organisations are saying in National Apprenticeship Week.

Media Centre

If you’re a journalist or member of the press looking for more information or to speak to one of our experts, please contact our press team. 

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Championing better work and working lives

About the CIPD

At the CIPD, we champion better work and working lives. We help organisations to thrive by focusing on their people, supporting economies and society for the future. We lead debate as the voice for everyone wanting a better world of work.