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Runaway train

Employers are being urged to offer more apprenticeships as the latest data reveals that applications have increased by a third, year on year. Karen Woodward, Interim National Director of Apprenticeships at the National Apprenticeships Service, gives an update.

Online applications for Apprenticeship places have increased by a third (32 percent) year on year, with over 1.4 million (1,403,920) online applications for vacancies made in 2012/13, compared to 1,063,090 in 2011/12. Apprenticeships have seen a real resurgence in recent years, with the employers that are getting on board quickly seeing that this is a great opportunity to grow their own talent, whilst young people are drawn to the chance to earn while they learn and gain experience while working towards a recognised qualification. The National Apprenticeship Service has seen a steady increase in the number of Apprenticeship vacancies offered by employers, with 129,000 vacancies posted online in 2012/13 compared to 101,000 in 2011/12, representing a growth of 27 percent. The result of this growth on both sides is that each online vacancy now attracts an average of 11 applications, with some job roles attracting as many as 35 applications, making Apprenticeships an attractive recruitment option for both employers and young people alike. As a result of this high demand, Skills Minister Matthew Hancock is urging more employers to consider how hiring an apprentice could benefit their business and, in doing so, help create opportunities for young people.

So what does this mean for employers? If you are an employer looking to recruit new staff then taking on an apprentice can be a very rewarding experience; you can access an excellent package of support including a free recruitment service through the Apprenticeship vacancies; access to quality assured Apprenticeship training and support towards to costs of training which varies according to the age of the recruit. Currently over 100,000 employers already offer Apprenticeships in over 200,000 locations around England and in recognition of the advantages of Apprenticeships for young people, adults, employers and the economy, the government’s planned investment in the 2013-14 financial year totals £1.566 billion. This year’s rise in Apprenticeship vacancies emphasises the popularity amongst employers to hire apprentices and many businesses have already cited the benefits of doing so: namely how it helps businesses grow their own talent, develops a motivated, skilled and qualified workforce and can improve productivity while reducing costs.

Apprenticeships deliver for businesses of all sizes, with most employers citing a wish to improve their skills-base as the main reason for taking on an apprentice, according to the British Chambers of Commerce. Companies offering Apprenticeships view them as advantageous to their long-term development, with 96 percent of apprentice employers reporting benefits to their business. Greater productivity is reported by around 72 percent of apprentice employers, with the average Apprenticeship completer increasing business productivity by £214 per week, a figure incorporating higher profits, lower prices and better products. Other benefits reported by around two-thirds of apprentice employers include improved products or services, the introduction of new ideas to the organisation, improved staff morale and better staff retention. Previous research with employers shows that that those young people who have completed an Apprenticeship are considered to be more employable than their university graduate counterparts and that 86 percent of apprentices stay in employment after their initial Apprenticeship finishes so it’s no surprise that more than half of young people would choose an Apprenticeship if one was available.

Apprenticeships cover over 170 industries and 1500 job roles, in a range of sectors from marketing to accountancy, engineering to veterinary nursing, community arts to construction. There are also three different levels that open up more options for employers so you can recruit an apprentice for any level within your business. The three levels are: Intermediate – equivalent to 5 A*-C GCSEs; Advanced – equivalent to 2 A-Levels; and Higher – equivalent to foundation degree and Level 4 or 5 vocational qualifications; Government has also announced plans to extend Apprenticeships to even higher levels of professional skills. These Apprenticeships will be equivalent to bachelors and masters degrees and are offered in subjects such as law, accountancy and advanced engineering.

The National Apprenticeships Service’s research provides a breakdown of the number of Apprenticeship applications and vacancies available across each of the sectors, thus giving us the top five most popular Apprenticeship types applied for and vacancies advertised during 2012/13. At the top of the game, in terms of applications made and vacancies available is Business and Administration with 384,840 online applications made and 31,558 vacancies. Other job types populating the top five of both measures are Customer Services (98,210 applications and 12,091 vacancies), Children and Young People’s Workforce (102,450 application and 7,043 vacancies) and IT, Software, Web and Telecoms Professional (83,760 applications and 6,486 vacancies). The fifth most popular Apprenticeship applied for, although not making it to the top five in terms of vacancies is Vehicle Maintenance and Repair with 67,750 applications.

Among the fastest growing Apprenticeships, in terms of the percentage increase in vacancies advertised online, are Health Optical Retail (590 percent increase year on year), Vehicle Sales (500 percent) and Facilities Management (263 percent). Apprenticeships in the Arts, Media and Publishing sector were most in demand during the past 12 months, with an average of 19 applications per vacancy. The most competitive job areas were Live Events and Promotion (35 applications per vacancy), Plumbing and Heating (33) and Marine Industry (28).These figures are not that surprising when one understands the modern day Apprenticeship is no longer defined by the stereotype of manual labour. Those opportunities do still exist and are popular for many, but in general what we’re seeing is an expansion of the number and types of roles becoming available as more opportunities exist in things like Business and Administration – a flexible office-based training programme that can be applied to a range of industries.

As well as variations between the sectors, there are also regional disparities and the levels of growth in vacancies advertised are most distinct in London, which saw an increase of 44 percent, The South West which saw an increase of 40 percent, followed by Yorkshire and the Humber (34 percent) and the South East (33 percent). Beating all of those was Windsor and Maidenhead where Apprenticeships vacancies grew by 208 percent in the past year, the largest increase recorded across England, followed by Hammersmith and Fulham (190 percent) and Havering (123 percent). The substantial growth of applications and vacancies outside of London should be encouraging to businesses throughout England a good sign in terms of possible economic recovery improving the job opportunities available. The National Apprenticeship Service is working hard to raise awareness of Apprenticeships across the country as a credible way to recruit a talented, motivated and loyal workforce and clearly this is paying off. That said, London also saw the most competition for places, with potential apprentices submitting almost 285,000 applications, an average 17 applications per vacancy, followed by the North East and West Midlands (both 13). The National Apprenticeship Service is here to support employers of all sizes take on an apprentice. A team of experts, including small business specialists, will help employers: Decide on your requirements with an Apprenticeship Adviser, and drive recruitment through the free Apprenticeship vacancies service; Deliver the Apprenticeship, working with a training organisation to reduce the burden on your business; Develop your apprentice, for example entering them into awards and competitions to put your business on the map.

The National Apprenticeship Service also has information on the financial support that is available to employers and businesses that employ up to 1000 employees may even get a £1500 grant to help cover the cost of starting a new apprentice aged 16 to 24 years old. More than 35,000 young people have been able to start an Apprenticeship thanks to this grant . This year’s rise in Apprenticeship applications is a reflection of how Apprenticeships are steadily becoming a ‘norm’, or even the ‘first choice’ for many talented young people and as the figures above show. It is also evident that with more employers creating vacancies it can bring about long-term benefits to employers in terms of increased quality, financial savings and a committed workforce. Nonetheless there is still work to be done to ensure that the strong demand from young people for Apprenticeships is met with a suitable supply of roles. It is vital that employers are encouraged to take advantage of the benefits that Apprenticeships bring. With dedicated support from the National Apprenticeship Service and the AGE 16-24 grant available, there really has never been a better time to recruit an Apprentice.

1 ICM Employers Research, 2013 –

2 Figure taken from Apprenticeship Evaluation – Learners, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and Department for Education, August 2013 –

3 ICM interviewed 1000 14-24 year-olds from 3rd-11th May 2013 from England. The percentages refer to all those saying they would ‘definitely’ or ‘probably’ like to do an Apprenticeship if one were available


Karen Woodward, Interim National Director of Apprenticeships
National Appreticeships Service

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