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Apprenticeships: Benefitting individuals and firms?

Welcoming someone with fresh thinking into your business could be just what you need to grow your venture.

Workers at a lunch break. — © Digital Journal
Workers at a lunch break. — © Digital Journal

This week (5 to 9 February) in the U.K., many businesses have been celebrating the value and opportunity created by apprenticeships. This is not just for the people who sign up for these schemes but also for the businesses which employ them.

Amy Knight, small business expert and spokesperson for NerdWallet UK, has explained to Digital Journal why owners of small businesses should consider hiring an apprentice.

Knight begins by explaining what is behind the scheme: “National Apprenticeship Week 2024 is all about developing a workforce that has future-ready skills, while simultaneously supporting business growth.”

This has led to several firms pledging to take part: “A number of big businesses – for example, household names such as Aldi and Nando’s – support apprenticeships, but smaller companies can benefit from hiring an apprentice too.”

Outside of the big corporate realm, there is space of smaller firms to look at taking on apprentices, explains Knight: “Whether you hire a school leaver or someone looking to change careers, apprentices can help your business stay agile, making it easier to adapt to the rapidly changing demands of today’s consumers.”

Apprenticeship is a system for training a new generation of practitioners of a trade or profession with on-the-job training.

As well as offering something for young people there are benefits for firms as well. This is drawn out by Knight, who finds: “Welcoming someone with fresh thinking into your business could be just what you need to grow your venture, thanks to the boost in motivation that research has shown apprentices bring. If you’re unsure where to start, search online for case studies or speak to other local business owners to find out who has used the apprenticeship scheme and how they benefited.”

Apprenticeship varies greatly, in terms of both quantity (numbers trained) and quality (skill content); and across sectors and occupations; however, it tends to share a commitment to training and a fixed period of time after which a qualification is gained.

There is also state support for the scheme, indicating the importance of government regulation in driving workplace change. Knight explains: “Don’t be put off by the cost of training an apprentice: the good news is that government funding is available, for businesses of all sizes and across all sectors, to put towards training from an approved provider.”

As to how businesses can access state support, Knight advises: “Whether your business is located in England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, you’ll need to search for region-specific funding and check the eligibility requirements. You may also be able to reduce the cost of recruiting an apprentice by advertising on government websites for free.”

Knight acknowledges there are other government grants to help to correct market failings: “As well as looking at the apprentice scheme and government help available, remember to research other grants your business may be eligible for.” 

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Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, business, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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