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Businesses compete to attract apprentices but recruitment process should be simpler

Siân Harrington , 07 Feb 2011

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Business sectors are competing to attract young people onto apprenticeship schemes in a bid to increase homegrown talent and benefit their bottom lines.

 

 As National Apprenticeship Week kicks off today, organisations are urging young people to think about taking up an apprenticeship. Government and business believes upskilling the nation through vocation-based training is one way to tackle the rise on youth unemployment.

Last month the Office for National Statistics reported that one in five 16 to 24-year-olds is now out of work, after a rise of 32,000 to 951,000 without jobs. This is the highest figure since records began in 1992. While the total unemployment rate is 7.9%, the rate for 16 to 24-year-olds is an alarming 20.3%.

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Research released today by City & Guilds finds that 89% of employers and HR managers see apprenticeships as key to the future success of their business over the next two years. More than half of those companies who already recruit apprentices believe that they offer greater value than hiring university graduates. However, 26% of all employers want the apprentice recruitment process to become simpler and less time consuming.

Building Business Through Apprenticeships finds seven out of 10 employers of apprentices saying apprenticeships are a vital element in an organisation’s recruitment and training mix. However, 80% have experienced barriers to hiring apprentices; a quarter argue the process is too bureaucratic; 26% don’t feel there are relevant apprentice schemes for their business and over a fifth are concerned apprentices will leave their company as soon as they are qualified.

Research from the National Apprenticeship Service (NAS), which sponsors National Apprenticeship Week, finds that more than 80% of people are more likely to use a business if it uses apprenticeships.

The Financial Skills Services Council (FSSC) said it was vital that young talent was brought in to make the financial sector more competitive and preserve the UK’s position as one of the financial centres of the world.

"Employer-hosted programmes could boost the skills of an entire youth generation whose current precarious outlook questions its ability to lead the country forward," said Liz Field, CEO of the FSSC.

"The competitiveness of the British economy is dependent upon harnessing the talents of a rich and diverse talent pool across the UK. The Government needs to empower education and training providers to create skills programmes that align closely with the needs of business. Business needs to communicate its requirements more clearly than it has done for policy makers and the education sector to meet its needs more fully."

Food and drink manufacturers are also keen to attract apprentices. The industry is the UK’s biggest employer with more than 440,000 employees, many of whom are school or college leavers apprenticed to some of the UK’s biggest brands. 

"We want to tackle the myth that food manufacturing is all hairnets and wellies," said Angela Coleshill, director of industry body FDF (pictured).

"The sector is well paid with excellent prospects and is surviving the economic uncertainty well. We are urging young people to consider apprenticeships and encouraging food manufacturers to look at where they could make these opportunities available in their companies."

Hazel Elderkin, who manages the apprenticeship programme for Unilever, added:"Our factories are becoming more complex as a result of product innovation and advancements in technology. At the same time, market place recruitment is becoming more difficult as there is a limited talent pool to select them from."

The Government’s ambition is for more people to undertake apprenticeships. The long-term target is for at least one out of every five young people to be undertaking an apprenticeship programme by 2020.

Morrisons, Britain’s fourth largest food retailer, today announced it would train more than 12,000 apprentices in 2011, making the company the largest provider of apprenticeships in the UK.

This investment aims to build on Morrisons’ commitment to have more skilled butchers, bakers and fishmongers than its rivals and to have the best service offering to customers.

With 30% of senior management having originally started working for Morrisons without a university qualification, Morrisons has a heritage of taking employees careers from the shop floor to the top floor of the company.

Further education, skills and lifelong learning minister, John Hayes, last month announced new measures to guarantee the quality of the Government's apprenticeship programme. The Specification of Apprenticeship Standards for England is designed to ensure all apprenticeships deliver high quality, nationally-recognised qualifications relevant to the skill, trade or occupation of the learner and employer and that every apprentice receives at least 280 hours of guided learning per year.

"Apprenticeships are at the heart of our skills strategy because they are valued by employers and sought after by learners. By enshrining these characteristics in statute we send a clear message to employers and learners that every apprenticeship is a high quality investment in the skills they need for the future," Hayes said. 

National Apprenticeship Week runs from today until Friday and comprises information sessions and conferences throughout the UK for businesses and prospective apprentices.

HRmagazine.co.uk will be showcasing employers and apprenticeships each day this week.

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