The apprenticeship levy may be a contentious issue for some of the country’s top earning businesses, however, there is no denying the raft of invaluable benefits apprenticeship schemes bring to both companies and the trainees themselves.According to the latest government statistics, apprenticeship schemes are still on the rise. For 2014/15, the number of apprenticeship starts increased by 12 per cent to almost 500,000 and, as in previous years, the majority were in the service sectors. Almost three quarters (73 per cent) of all those apprenticeship starts were concentrated in three sectors: business, administration and law; health, public services and care; and retail and commercial enterprise. It was once viewed as the “poor relation” to university education, so why now are the nation’s apprenticeship schemes proving so popular, particularly with today’s young job hunters? One of the biggest complaints from young people looking for work is being stuck in a vicious circle of needing experience to get a job, but not being able to get a job to gain the necessary experience. Apprenticeships not only offer the opportunity to work for a real employer, earn a salary and perhaps gain a recognised industry qualification, they also give young people the chance to gain the valuable workplace skills and experience essential to building a long and successful career. From an employers’ perspective, apprenticeships allow people to pick up the skills that companies actually need, they help businesses recruit the very best people and can also be a great retention tool. The challenge of tackling skills shortages in specific sectors can also be addressed – particularly in the tech and digital industries where new techniques and technologies are emerging all the time. The digitally savvy generation of apprentices who have a natural ability to work and engage with the latest technologies could prove to be a valuable asset to plug the industry’s gaping skills gap. According to the “Employer Insights 2015 Skills Survey“, which explored employers’ views on skills gaps within the tech sector, half of all businesses employing tech specialists reported having skills gaps within that workforce. That equates to 182,000 businesses across the UK whose tech workforce are missing some of the skills needed to fulfil the companies’ needs. Given that the tech industry contributed more than £91bn to the economy last year, it is clearly not just the apprentices and the employers who would benefit from bridging the skills shortage. It’s crucial that we hire the best talent out there. There’s an acknowledged skills shortage in the UK when it comes to talented developers, which is why we want to try and attract the best students and graduates, and have in pace a structure that enables them to fulfil their potential. Apprenticeship schemes have a vital role to play in closing Britain’s digital skills gap and contributing to the health of the UK economy as a whole. Regardless of the sector, apprentices represent the future of many of today’s companies, so perhaps it’s unsurprising that the popularity of these programmes is increasing year on year, alongside their subsequent success. Robert Yardy is head of new business and marketing at MMT Digital.
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