How new financial incentives make apprenticeship investment even more appealing

As the BBC prepares to welcome back another series of The Apprentice, taking on a young hopeful for your own business could be the smartest money you ever spend.

As a small business owner, you might not consider an in-house apprenticeship scheme a great investment of your time and money. If you’ve recently secured funding, the likelihood is you’re targeting instantly tangible returns on it, and financing apprentices is a luxury beyond your means.

But this could prove a chronic oversight – particularly if you’re using your cash injection specifically to boost recruitment. Plus, from April 2016 employers will no longer be required to pay employer National Insurance contributions for apprentices under the age of 25 on wages up to the upper earnings limit.

Here are just a few benefits of investing in your future through apprenticeships…

Cultivate job-specific skills

Contrary to dated misconceptions, apprenticeships aren’t exclusive to certain industries like manual trades, and are available right across the board, whether you’re in tech, finance or media…

The brilliance of taking on an apprentice is you’re not just getting someone qualified in a relevant academic field, but a worker who’ll develop the job-specific and soft skills to help your business succeed.

Future-proof your business

Job retention figures provide a strong case for apprenticeships. Official government stats show as many as 71% of apprentices stay with the same employer once their scheme has officially come to an end, having already given a typical four years’ service.

>See also: Tech apprentices – five myths busted

Giving someone this first step onto the ladder encourages motivation and loyalty. So it’s no surprise that Skills Training UK research shows 57% of employers report a high proportion of their apprentices progress into management positions within the company, so you’re creating your own future leaders who’ll need no bedding-in period.

Improve productivity and competitiveness

The Skills Training UK research shows businesses report an average increase in productivity of £214 a week when they hire apprentices. In fact, almost 9 in 10 employers that invest in an apprentice report benefits to their business – with a third noticing positive effects in a matter of weeks.

Apprenticeships are a sure-fire way to attract enthusiastic staff with fresh ideas and perspectives which can help your company stay a move ahead of its rivals.

The very fact you’re seen to be investing in the future of your workforce also encourages existing staff, leading to improved morale and more efficient working practices. Some 92% of employers who take on apprentices believe they create a more motivated and satisfied workforce, according to the report – and 77% say they make them more competitive.

Hire and train cost-effectively

When budgeting for the hiring and training of staff, apprentices represent excellent value for your funding. Not only can you receive government training contributions, the recruitment process is generally simpler and less expensive.

>Related: Using social recruitment in an employees’ market

As an employer you’ll generally provide on-the-job training and of course, pay an apprentice’s wages. An approved, external training provider – maybe a college or training organisation – can take care of the rest, so the apprentice’s time will be split between work and training.

This means you can develop a targeted training plan in conjunction with the outside provider which best reflects the needs of your business.

Choose your level

When hiring apprentices, you’re not restricted to a certain level of recruit, like a university graduate. In England there are three standard levels: Level 2 is the equivalent of 5 good GCSE passes; Level 3 the same as 2 A-level passes, while Level 4 is an alternative path into high-level roles, equivalent to higher education certificates or diplomas.

Looking beyond this, a Level 6 qualification is equivalent to a bachelor’s degree while Level 7 is like a Masters. ICM Research suggests English employers rate these qualified Higher Apprentices as 25% more employable than those who took an alternative route into work.

Further reading: Top five recruitment mistakes and how to avoid them

Praseeda Nair

Praseeda Nair

Praseeda was Editor for from 2016 to 2018.

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