University places have a significantly higher uptake among young people than apprenticeships. However, according to YouGov, just 4% of Britons think that a university degree is the best way of preparing young people for the future. As a university graduate, you might expect me to disagree (only 29% of grads feel apprenticeships are the better option) but I’ve seen first-hand how apprenticeships can revolutionise the lives of apprentices and their respective businesses. Done well, apprenticeships can create sustainable talent pipelines across a whole host of specialisms – there are 844 apprenticeship programmes currently available – and can help stem long-term resourcing issues. What’s more, they’re super cost effective and available to every business irrespective of size or scale. Yet, despite the advantages, demand continues to outstrip supply with 430,000 students expressing interest in apprenticeship opportunities with UCAS in 2023 vs only 189,000 advertised vacancies.

Why such a discrepancy? Statistics tell us that 94% of HR leaders within levy-paying employers (those with an annual pay bill of £3million +) state that there is at least one barrier to them accessing their apprenticeship levy funds. Put simply, it’s overwhelming, it’s a turn-off, and there’s a lot of other things on the People agenda to get through. But, with only 15% of businesses stating that they are ‘always able’ to recruit the talent and skills they need, I think we need to take another look at how to make apprenticeships easy to understand and easy to put in place. Government reforms aside, we’ve partnered with some of the region’s leading training providers including Kendal College, Lakes College and Gen2 to help make apprenticeship employment an easier prospect. Here are some tips:

Forget Google, just ask…

Apprenticeships aren’t actually that difficult to understand, or that difficult to manage and operate. However, Google is usually the place we all start when conducting new research, and Googling apprenticeships makes the mind boggle! Funding rules, off-the-job training, apprenticeship standards – ouch, no, no thanks. It’s much easier to ask a training provider to take you through it. Forget the 121-page rule book (yep, it really is 121 pages) and grab a coffee with someone who knows what they’re talking about. It’s fine not to know where to start and our local training providers can take you through it step by step.

Don’t be scared, you got this.

Say the word apprentice and everyone can start to get the heeby jeebies. How do we act around apprentices? What will they need from us? Do we need to treat them differently? Apprentices are the same as any other employee. The only difference being is that they’re undergoing training at the same time as they’re carrying out their role.  Assuming you already have a culture built around positive people experiences, there shouldn’t be any great departure from what you’re doing ordinarily. Show your apprentices that you care about them, their future, their interactions, and making the most of their apprenticeship. Engaging your apprentices (as you would any member of your team) is the key to success.

Assign your apprentice a workplace mentor

Irrespective of age, joining a new organisation can be a daunting prospect. Having a mentor can help colleagues acclimatise to the workplace and provide valuable support outside of the traditional hierarchy. Mentors are great for providing advice and guidance, but also giving apprentices’ a voice where they feel comfortable to share their experience and better connect with the business. Mentors can provide apprentices with the motivation they need when the going gets tough, and it also provides valuable coaching experience and CPD for mentors themselves.

The legal conundrum

Ok, so there’s a few niggly compliance and legal bits, I won’t lie. And this part is outside of all the fantastic support that training providers offer. Sadly, information on employment law when it comes to apprentices can be vague and sporadic, but it’s not to be taken lightly when the average cost of an employment tribunal in the UK is £8,500. Given our work with local training providers, we’ve created a definitive guide to make sure that employers stay on the right side of the law – contact us for more info.