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Are misconceptions towards apprenticeships holding businesses back?

Many businesses are grappling with talent shortages, and the skills gap this leaves is only set to grow.

With digital transformation, changing consumer needs, as well as shifts in priorities when it comes to socio-economic concerns, businesses are also in need of finding talent that can face tomorrow’s problems as opposed to today’s.

As a result, many organisations across various industries are actively fighting the ongoing skills gap.

Helping businesses through a tough climate

Degree apprenticeships are often an underutilised solution, sometimes due to misconceptions and concerns businesses and employees have about them.

However, by offering degree apprenticeships, organisations can help their employees upskill and keep talent in-house, while ensuring teams have skillsets that are up to date with the demands of the current economy, market, and technological developments.

An ongoing challenge for businesses to tackle is closing the skills gap while ensuring their workforce is diverse and representative of society.

If workers don’t have the opportunity to focus on their own learning, they are less likely to ‘climb up’ the career ladder.

Businesses have the power to prevent this from happening, by simply allowing employees the chance to return to education, when they are ready, to build the skills that will propel them further in their careers.

This means apprenticeships can help create a more diverse workforce, with them being described by the Social Mobility Commission as one of the “most powerful and effective means of boosting social mobility amongst workers from less advantaged backgrounds.”

This is because they open access for those who have taken a route into the industry that doesn’t involve attending university.

Apprenticeships key to social mobility, HR leaders say 

Misconceptions about apprenticeships

One main concern is that those who enrol on apprenticeship or learning and development programmes will leave the company once the course has been completed.

Research has disputed this, as more than seven in ten (73%) businesses retain their completer apprentices, with employers providing apprenticeships at Level 4 or 5 being more likely to retain all of their completer apprentices than those offering lower levels.

Another concern is the time needed to complete a course while working.

An apprenticeship can take between one and five years to complete, depending on the sector and level.

It’s important for businesses to partner with organisations that can offer flexible or distance learning, to allow workers to better integrate education while working.

To make sure things run smoothly, businesses also need a dedicated learning and development champion.

Apprenticeship levy: where next in its evolution 

This will ensure upskilling is thoroughly integrated into career progression plans, while also allowing businesses to track progress and offer support for apprentices who may need it.

A champion in this area will also be able to identify potential staff that will give businesses a better chance of enrolling employees that will stick to the apprenticeship and, ideally, stay with the organisation post-completion.

As developments are occurring rapidly, resulting in the labour market evolving at a quicker pace than ever, businesses can turn to educational institutions offering tailored learning.

For employers, degree apprenticeships are an effective way to bridge the skills gap within their current workforce and help managers with their personal development.

We’ve already seen it with companies that have approached us looking to further diversify and give opportunities to the staff they appreciate and wish to see progress and remain at their company.

For employees, degree apprenticeships allow them to stay relevant in a quickly changing market and advance their careers and skillsets – a win-win for both.


Stacey Hayes-Allen, is director of corporate partnerships at Arden University