Opinion

Forget Hairstyle Appreciation Day, National Apprenticeship Week actually means something

5 min read

14 March 2016

With the awareness week now in its ninth year, National Apprenticeship Week is a great time for those with less knowledge on the process to find out how it can benefit their company in a number of different ways – as well as super-charge the economy.

We’re bombarded by awareness-raising weeks all the time. Some highlight important issues, some are just plain silly. For every “Prostate Cancer Awareness Month”, there’s an “International Day of the Nacho”. 

But it’s important to wade through the noise of the stupid events to hear the message of those that can make a significant difference to our lives.

In a business sense, this is one of those times as we have the opportunity to make a difference with National Apprenticeship Week.

Throughout this week the government and proactive businesses will be flying the flag for the benefits of apprenticeships. Benefits for young people, benefits for employers and benefits for the economy.

Those firms yet to join the growing army of apprentice-employing businesses, or could do more with the number they already support, should listen very closely to what’s said about apprenticeships this week, it might just secure the future of their enterprise.

Taking stock

Our education system is still a country mile behind where it should be when it comes to creating a skilled and motivated future workforce. The curriculum is still too heavily weighted away from practical skills. And I don’t just mean “tools in hand” skills, which for a business like mine is priority, but practical skills that better prepare young people for the world of work.

Therefore, apprenticeships are the best chance we have to ensure we don’t face the kind of skills shortages that would put all of our businesses under threat. From plumbers to builders, smart phone app developers to architects, there isn’t a sector that can’t benefit from apprenticeships.

With its commitment to creating five million apprenticeships over the next five years, the government understands the benefits they offer to the economy. They have a positive impact on youth unemployment and create valuable contributors to society and the economy, but just as important, they arm young people with skills that help drive the UK’s economic engine. 

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Trade apprentices make stuff, fix stuff and improve stuff. And in white-collar industries adopting the apprenticeship model, trainees are not catapulted into the real world from classroom to office without any experience of business. Just ask the apprentices in the accounts department at Pimlico Plumbers. They learn quicker and more effectively managing customer invoices alongside our experienced specialists than they do working from text books.

Every business has a responsibility to support the skills development of the future workforce. The introduction of the apprenticeship levy in 2017 will mean that every business, no matter what their size, will have the chance to take on apprentices with the top two per cent of companies contributing to a fund that will help the whole country.

Of course, that could be supplemented with my idea to transfer Job Seekers Allowance into a Job Achievers Allowance with the benefit paid to employers to help further offset companies’ training costs. 

I think we are reaching a critical mass for apprenticeships. There is a desire from government and more and more young people are keen on this vocational route to a successful career. Business support is good, but it has to be better. Once we achieve that equal balance, apprenticeships will form the backbone of the country. Perhaps this week will go some way to influencing those yet to see the benefits of apprenticeships.

To my mind, the two most important areas of our lives is our health and our ability to lead a productive life that contributes to society, whether that’s as a business owner or a skilled employee.

The many health awareness weeks do have a major influence on our lives and, in a lot of cases, improve and even save lives. In terms of the business world and the economy, I would hope National Apprenticeship Week has a similar impact on improving the health of the UK workforce.

Charlie Mullins is once again on the hunt for his next apprentice to work at Pimlico Plumbers, and is hoping to do so using social media.