The transformation of apprenticeships over the last five years is to be welcomed. Gone are the days when apprentices were left making the tea, or hemmed into poorly-paid jobs – nowadays, they offer a real gateway to a long, lucrative and satisfying career.
Apprenticeships are vitally important in two ways. Firstly, they help growing businesses in the city show that they are serious about supporting the workforce of the future, and secondly, from an employees’ point of view, they can offer a way into industries that are sometimes very difficult for younger people to move into and make their mark. The government is absolutely right to push the apprenticeships agenda, and it should be offering significant tax breaks for those companies which take them on.
Certain industries are in desperate need of skilled workers to fill widening gaps. Apprenticeships are an excellent way to nurture these skills in young people, and provide the help that industries such as engineering and automotive desperately crave. They can also make significant inroads into the problems of NEETs, and offer an opportunity for those either who don’t have the grades or the desire to enter further or higher education. Years of valuable of experience is also obviously gained, for both employer and employee.
Recent figures back this up. Research from the Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr) reveals that apprenticeships contributed £34 billion to the UK economy in 2014.
This figure includes gains to the economy from higher wages, business profits and taxes of £31 billion per year, an estimated reduction in unemployment benefit payments of £370 million per year, and benefits to organisations while training apprentices of £1.9 billion per year (in 2015 prices).
The ratio of benefits to costs of apprenticeships is £21 for the national economy for each £1 of public money spent.
The number of people starting an apprenticeship each year has grown in recent years from around 100,000 in 1950 to more than 450,000 people in 2013-14, and the government is on course to deliver in excess of 2 million apprenticeships in the lifetime of this parliament. If this upward trend in recruitment continues, the national economy stands to gain £50 billion by 2025 and £101 billion by 2050. If the number of employers taking on apprentices rises still further, these benefits could increase by £8 billion in 2050, giving a total gain of £109 billion.
If we compare the importance of apprenticeships now to say, 30 years ago, we can see that the value of the role is absolutely still there – but perhaps in a different way. So many of the UK’s traditional industries, such as manufacturing or engineering, have changed out of all recognition over the last two decades, and many young people are unaware of the high-paid jobs that these industries can offer.
Here at Frontline we have now employed 5 young people through our Apprenticeship programme, all of whom made such an impression on the business they are now permanent employees.
One such example of how Apprenticeships are a great career pathway is 20 year old Joshua Rhodes, from Nottingham who joined Frontline in June 2011. Joshua has now been with Frontline for over 3 years and has gone from earning a basic apprenticeship wage to over £30,000 pa – quite an achievement.
We need the next generation, and the ones following, to learn the skills we need to keep these industries alive, not only for the benefit of the businesses trading at home and overseas, but also the economy as a whole.