Building a plan of action

National Apprenticeship Week brings together businesses and apprentices across the country to shine a light on the positive impact that apprenticeships make to individuals, businesses and the wider economy. This year marks the 15th annual week-long celebration of apprenticeships and is taking place this week (between 7th-13th February 2022).

In our feature, “Bringing new blood to the Channel“, we examined how channel companies can benefit from apprenticeships. Now, Crissi Williams, CEO of the ITP, explains where to begin.

With hundreds of apprentice standards available, the wider business benefits of apprentices are clear. According to the National Apprenticeship Service:

  • 86 per cent of employers said apprenticeships have helped them develop skills relevant to their organisation.
  • 78 per cent of employers said apprenticeships helped them improve productivity.
  • 74 per cent of employers said apprenticeships helped them improve the quality of their product or service.

Apprentices are motivated to learn new skills, and you can adapt the training to the needs of the business. They can also help you to expand and upskill your existing workforce.

Tackling diversity

Women make up only 18 per cent of digital technology roles according to the most recent Office of National Statistics data. What’s more, the Wise Campaign found that only 8 per cent of women progress to a Level 4+ STEM qualification with only 24 per cent of women progressing to the STEM workforce. Firms are now recognising that apprenticeships can bridge this gap between skills and diversity.

In the past 12 months 39 per cent of our apprenticeship intake across the industry has been female. It hasn’t been easy. We’ve had to analyse job titles and descriptions, and turn them on their head to attract females, because females do not generally look for engineering roles due to outdated stereotypes. We have used our initiative and reached out to job seekers, rather than waiting for them to find us.

We’ve contacted over 1,500 female job seekers, and for every one hired, we’ve reviewed on average 43 CVs. It’s a challenge, but it is well worth the work to see the changes that we are making in this industry.

Where to begin

Businesses, irrespective of size, can recruit an apprentice. The duration of their apprenticeship can range from 12 months to four years.

Choose the apprenticeship level: as apprenticeships are divided into different levels it’s a good idea to work out which one suits your business. They are:

  • Intermediate level 2 (equivalent educational level of 5 passes at GCSE grades A – C).
  • Advanced level 3 (equivalent to a A level passes).
  • Higher level 4,5,6 and 7 (foundation degree and above).

Find a training provider: as your apprentice learns on the job, 20 per cent of their time must be spent on training. You will need to find a provider to work alongside to deliver the scheme.

Choose the level of pay: You must pay your apprentice no less than the Apprenticeship National Minimum Wage (if they are between 16 – 18) and the National Minimum Wage (if they are over 18). However, many employers choose to pay more than this.

All apprentices must be employed for a minimum of 30 hours per week, and they are entitled to the same benefits as other employees.

Access funding: You can get help from the government to fund a scheme. Although the amount will depend on whether you pay the apprenticeship levy or not. You pay the levy if you’re an employer with a payroll bill over £3million each year.

Currently non-levy paying employers pay just 5 per cent towards the cost of training and assessing an apprentice. If you employ less than 50 staff then the government will pay 100 per cent of the training costs (up to the funding band maximum) for apprentices aged 16–18 and 19-24 (with an education, health and care plan provided by the local authority). To access funding, you will need to create an apprenticeship service account.

There are also incentive payments currently available. From January 2022, employers can apply for £3,000 for new apprentices of any age starting their apprenticeship before 31 March 2022. Applications close on 15th May for this funding. This is in addition to the existing incentive payment of £1,000 to employers hiring an apprentice.

Recruitment: The National Apprenticeship Service portal allows you to advertise vacancies and has access to a massive database. Traditional mediums like job boards and LinkedIn also work well. At the ITP, we have found that assessment days work well as part of the recruitment process. You will also need to draw up employment contracts, as you would with other employees.

Training and development: supporting your apprentice with their training is a massive priority. It can be a good idea to draw up a detailed development plan as soon as your apprentice starts, working in conjunction with the training provider.

End-point assessment: or EPA is the final stage of the apprenticeship. It gives an impartial assessment of the apprentice’s skills, knowledge and behaviours in conjunction with the apprenticeship standard. These are conducted by independent bodies called end-point assessment organisations (EPAOs). It’s essential to select an EPAO as soon as possible so that your apprentice understands the criteria for assessment.

With additional funding available there has never been a better time to hire an apprentice and ensure a sustainable pipeline of young talent. What are you waiting for?

This feature appeared in our February 2022 print issue. You can read the magazine in full here.

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