From 14th to 18th March, businesses across Sussex and the rest of the country will be celebrating and supporting apprenticeship schemes. What is this week about and how can your business get involved?

 

Young people bore the brunt of the financial crisis – when it was at its peak, young people were at their lowest in terms of employment, opportunities, care and overall happiness. Between August and October 2015, 625,000 young people aged 16-24 were unemployed. This number is down 98,000 from the previous quarter and down 129,000 from the previous year.

The unemployment rate (the proportion of the economically active population who are unemployed) for 16-24 year olds was down to 13.6% by the end of 2015, from 16.6% a year ago. There’s not been a lower rate since September 2005, so what are we doing right?

One argument is that the emergence of the Apprenticeship Scheme has aided these rate falls.

In 1994, the government introduced the concept of apprenticeships as we know it now and this has since been built upon, now offering young people between the ages of 16-24 a real opportunity to learn a trade hands-on (ironically, in a way that resembles the more traditional means of job acquirement, in the 60s and 70s). From 2009, the National Apprenticeship Service has coordinated apprenticeships and traineeships in England, offering free support and advice for both young people and the employers looking to recruit them.

More recently, in 2015, the government pledged to support 3 million apprenticeships by 2020: a promise that makes all the sense in the world when you see the statistic that apprenticeships were estimated to contribute £34 billion to the UK economy in 2014

Paul Lucken, Deputy Director Employer and Delivery Services for the South West, Skills Funding Agency, says: “Apprenticeships are at the heart of the government’s drive to equip people with the skills employers need to grow and compete. Nearly every employer that takes on an apprentice reports benefits to their business from improved productivity, products or services, the introduction of new ideas to the organisation, improved staff morale and better staff retention.”

Prime Minister, David Cameron said: “The greatest asset any employer has is their workforce. And by investing in them, they are investing in the success and future of their business. As a one nation government, we are committed to supporting 3 million quality apprenticeships over the next 5 years – to help strengthen our economy, deliver the skills that employers need and give millions more hardworking people financial security and a brighter future.”

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The Prime Minister’s promises and bold vision for the future reflects how businesses are now thinking. The benefits are becoming increasingly obvious to a broad range of business sizes and sectors. Now, over 250,000 workplaces in England offer apprenticeships, with a hugely successful outcome:

  • 88% of apprentice employers believe they lead to a more motivated and satisfied workforce, leading also to greater employer loyalty and quality.
  • 75% of apprentice employers say that their programme has helped cut recruitment costs.
  • 80% believe that apprenticeships reduce staff turnover.
  • And 81% believe that apprenticeships make their businesses more productive: on average increasing productivity by £214 per week.

From 14th to 18th March 2016, National Apprenticeship Week will be underway. The aim of this week is simple: to celebrate apprenticeships and the positive impact they have on individuals, businesses and the wider economy. Although each year more and more businesses are taking on apprentices, National Apprenticeship Week is focussed on getting more to take apprentices on board, in particular more small businesses. You may yourself be a small business owner and think: ‘I don’t have the resources to take on an apprentice’. Well, that’s where you’re wrong.

 

What do I, as the employer, have to do?

As the employer you must give your apprentice an induction into their role and provide on-the job training. You are responsible for paying your apprentice’s wages and issuing their contract of employment. As an employee, the apprentice receives the same benefits as other employees.

  1. Provide a contract of employment that pays at least the Apprenticeship National Minimum Wage. Apprentices who are under 19, or who are over 19 and in the first year of their intermediate level or advanced level apprenticeship, must be paid a per hour. Many businesses pay more than the minimum wage.
  2. Hours of employment for an apprentice should be at least 30 hours per week. By exception, where the individual’s circumstances or the particular nature of employment in a given sector makes this impossible, then an absolute minimum of 16 hours must be met. In such cases the duration of the apprenticeship should be extended.
  3. There must be an Apprenticeship Agreement between the employer and the apprentice.

 

What funding is available to an employer towards training costs?

The size of the contribution varies depending on your sector and the age of the apprentice at the start of the training:

  • 100 per cent of the cost of apprenticeship training if the apprentice is aged 16–18 years old.
  • A contribution towards the cost of training if the apprentice is aged 19 and over.
  • The Government has announced an additional £60m to fund higher apprenticeships which would cover the cost of the higher apprenticeship training element.

The contribution is paid directly to the organisation that provides and supports the apprenticeship training, in most cases this will be a training organisation. Large employers with a direct contract with the National Apprenticeship Service may receive the funding themselves and deliver aspects of the apprenticeship training.

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The AGE (Apprentice Grant for Employers) Grant

You will be eligible for an AGE grant if:

  • You’re a small employer (less than 50 members of staff)
  • Your apprentice is aged 16-24
  • You have not employed an apprentice within the last 12 months

As an employer, you can receive up to five grants in total.

 

National Apprenticeship Week 2016 will be from 14th to 18th of March… Get involved!

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