Why apprenticeships are an effective way of growing your business during a time of rising costs
Comments from Claire Williams, Head of Employer Engagement at Calderdale College
It’s a difficult operating environment for many business owners at the moment. Between rising supply costs, economic uncertainty and ongoing staff shortages, it can be easy to feel stuck when it comes to your next stage of growth, especially when the money is tighter than it has been before.
Increasing your headcount, and therefore the range of skills and capabilities within your business, can have a really positive impact on your turnover. However, we understand that recruiting for the employees you need in order to keep growing can not only be time consuming, but also expensive, especially when the focus feels like it should be on keeping the business afloat, rather than expansion.
But continuing to grow a business during challenging economic circumstances doesn’t have to be as difficult as it sounds. When thinking about how you can scale up a business, why not consider doing so through apprenticeships? Not only can apprentices fill existing skills gaps within your business and help you to secure the best new talent, but they can also help you to establish a vibrant, engaged workforce.
What many don’t know, is that hiring apprentices can actually be a cost-effective strategy for upskilling within your business, particularly for businesses with a wage bill of less than £3m per year, who don’t need to pay the apprenticeship levy.
For these businesses, the government will heavily subsidise the cost, meaning that you’ll generally only be paying a maximum of 5% of the total cost of their training and assessment. Additionally, depending on your apprentices’ ages and backgrounds, you may also be eligible for a £1,000 grant for each apprentice that you hire.
In part, some of these financial incentives have been implemented in recognition of how far apprenticeships have come over the last decade or so. While traditionally they may have been limited to more manual trades, you’d be amazed at the number of different roles and responsibilities that apprentices can fulfil nowadays. From HR and business administration, IT and digital, to childcare and education, apprentices can provide support for your business in ways that you may not have even thought of.
There’s also a misconception that apprentices are only there to do menial work, which is something that we’ve been working hard to correct here at Calderdale College. Yes, apprentices can help with these tasks, but the value that they can add to your business goes far beyond this.
Not only are they engaged and keen to learn, but they can bring the knowledge and skills they are developing back into the business, allowing you to implement fresh ideas and new ways of working. As an added bonus, the support that apprentices provide gives other members of the team more time to focus on, for example, introducing new services or acquiring additional customers.
In addition, the impact of investing in an apprentice often goes far beyond the length of their apprenticeship. We speak to many employers who have staff that started with the business as apprentices, and have then chosen to continue their career journey with that employer, progressing to become managers or even directors.
Beyond this, through initiatives such as our Collaborative Apprenticeships project, which aims to increase the quantity and improve the quality of apprenticeships in Calderdale and the surrounding areas, apprentices can take part in a range of free training courses, including in Mental Health First Aid, allowing them to add further value to your business.
As well as upskilling your apprentices, we also have specific training for business owners to guide them through the process of hiring an apprentice for the first time, as well as helping them to understand how to use the government’s Digital Apprenticeship Service, which all employers of apprentices are required to register with.
While it may seem daunting to introduce apprenticeships into a business for the first time, or to increase the number and type of apprenticeships that you offer, our Employer Engagement team is here to make the process as seamless as possible.
Since the launch of the Collaborative Apprenticeships project last year, we’ve engaged with 85 employers across the region and have provided fully-funded training to more than 100 participants. The feedback that we’ve had to date has been fantastic, and demonstrates just how important it is to continue to challenge perceptions of apprenticeships.
Whether it’s identifying your skills gaps, using the government’s Digital Apprenticeship Service, or recruiting the best talent, our expert team can provide support throughout the whole process of hiring an apprentice, taking all of the hard work out of it for you, and helping to grow your business in a cost-effective way.
Collaborative Apprenticeships is managed by the West Yorkshire Consortium of Colleges (WYCC) and funded by the European Social Fund (ESF). Calderdale College is supporting the delivery of the project in partnership with local employers and training providers.