Guide to Apprenticeships

In a recent survey conducted amongst members of the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), 31.8 per cent reported experiencing skill shortages amongst their current staff, in managerial, advanced IT, technical and sales and marketing roles. So what's to be done? SmallBusiness.co.uk teamed up with the FSB to give you this guide to apprenticeships.

Summer is usually the time when big businesses are settling their new hand-picked recruits into their graduate schemes. However, smaller businesses need not miss out on cherry picking the best potential and developing the workforce they need to stay healthy.

However, skills shortages are still an issue. In a recent survey conducted among members of the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), 31.8 per cent reported skill shortages in managerial, advanced IT, technical and sales and marketing roles. So what’s to be done? SmallBusiness.co.uk teamed up with the FSB to give you this guide to apprenticeships.

One of the recommendations in the Leitch Report, commissioned by the Government in 2004, was that businesses sign up to the Skills Pledge. The pledge is to help employees gain basic skills and a level 2 qualification, namely GCSE grade A*-C or vocational equivalents.

Apprenticeship schemes are available via a skills broker when employers sign up to the Skills Pledge and can help employers develop the staff they need, as well as growing alongside the business and its sector. By 2020 the Government has stated it wants to ensure that 500,000 people a year are in apprenticeships, with plans to integrate basic English, maths and IT skills.

Types of apprenticeships:

According to Apprenticeships.org.uk there are two levels of Apprenticeships:

• Apprenticeship

Duration: At least one year
Aim: To help the apprentice work towards a National Vocational Qualification at Level two, Key Skills and in most cases a technical certificate.

• Advanced apprenticeship
Duration: At least two years
Aim: To help the apprentice work towards a National Vocational
Qualification at Level three, Key Skills and a technical certificate.

How they work:

• The Learning & Skills Council in partnership with Jobcentre Plus manage apprenticeships nationally through 47 local offices and a network of learning providers. Apprenticeships are currently available in 80 different sectors of industry. They will usually consist of on-the-job training or ‘work-based learning’ and day-release at a local college or institute.

• Your first step should be to check out www.apprenticeships.org.uk and the Employer section. Once you have all the information you need, call 08000 150 400 for an Employer’s Pack.

Pros:
• Opportunity to realise, develop and harness the potential of your and your industry’s, future workforce.
• Can help to address industry and sector skills shortages.

Cons:

• Remember, this is no quick fix. For apprentices to benefit your business they don’t just need to start, they need to complete the scheme. The Government’s World Class Skills report into the implementation of Leitch’s recommendations shows that 53 per cent of learners successfully completed their full apprenticeship framework in 2005/06 compared to just 40 per cent the previous year.

Be informed:

• A copy of the World Class Skills report can be accessed by logging onto:

World Class Skills (pdf)

• Apprenticeship: a key route to skill:

The (Lords Economic Affairs) Committee will be publishing its report on employment and training opportunities for low-skilled young people on Friday 20 July 2007.

Belinda Webb of the FSB says: ‘The Federation of Small Businesses wholeheartedly supports any Governmental endeavour to raise the skills of the workforce, not least because they can contribute hugely to the success of a small business.

‘However, we do not believe that academic training need be the only route. With the Government aiming for at least 50 percent of children to attend university, we believe that more onus needs to be placed on the non-academic routes, namely, a trade. The UK skills shortage has been widely highlighted recently as businesses struggle to attract complete packages. This is where the apprenticeship scheme comes into its own.’

The FSB consists of 205,000 members. To find out more about the FSB and benefits of membership visit www.fsb.org.uk.

Adam Wayland

Uriel Bruen

Adam was Editor of SmallBusiness.co.uk from 2006 to 2008 and prior to that was staff writer on sister publication BusinessXL Magazine.

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