Much has been said about the importance and value of apprenticeships in today’s world of business; it’s a topic close to my heart and my own business thinking.
But despite the media spotlight being focused on Apprenticeship Week, despite the volumes of words printed and spoken in the media about the issue of late, I continue to be surprised at the lack of understanding there still is about what is, after all, a largely untapped and valuable source of potential talent for any business.
There are two main myths surrounding apprenticeships that need debunking. The first is they are no longer just about learning a traditional trade in plumbing, bricklaying or electrics, for example. Neither are apprenticeships just about young school leavers in search of a step into their first job.
Apprenticeships are literally for anyone of any age and in any job – and the perfect way for an employer to ensure his or her existing workforce continues to be trained and developed. Apprenticeships also represent an excellent entry into work, whether it’s a change of career direction or a person’s first job – many of them an opportunity also, to be designed specifically to help mould and develop the apprentice into the ways of an individual organisation.
The fact is the time is ripe for businesses to embrace not only one of the most successful ways of improving the quality of an existing workforce, but in recruiting and developing new talent. In what is the most challenging economic climate in living memory, it has become ever more crucial to ensure staff are trained up in preparation for the brighter business days ahead.
Providing an apprenticeship vacancy can not only prove to be very rewarding for a business, but an extremely cost-effective way of introducing new talent – giving an organisation a unique opportunity to develop and shape an apprentice in a way that best fits the business by focusing on the skills that will add real value.
I am proud that my company, Acorn, is the Apprenticeship Provider of the Year in Wales. We believe that in a complex and challenging era, ongoing training and development of any business team is absolutely critical to its future success – and apprenticeships are at the heart of this.
However, as I have said, apprenticeships are not just for new entrants to a business, but should also be used to improve and accredit the skills and competency of the more experienced members of an existing workforce. They offer excellent opportunities, not just for employers but for people wanting to achieve thorough, professional training with a nationally- recognised qualification and transferable skills.
We at Acorn have been closely involved with and witnessed at first hand many highly successful and rewarding apprenticeship programmes with companies and organisations across Wales, including DAS Insurance in Caerphilly, Principality Building Society, Leekes retail business, the Vale of Glamorgan Council and Griffin Windows in the Rhondda. They have recognised the importance of upskilling their workforces, and taking advantage of financial support to fund it.
The Welsh Government firmly believes in apprenticeships because they also feel, quite rightly, that they fuel the future skills base of the nation. Providing apprenticeships is all about future-proofing and investing in your business – and there has never been a more critical time to do that. I would urge any business to look at the opportunities apprenticeship schemes can offer and take full advantage of the support packages available from the Welsh Government, which is ready and waiting to provide much of the funding required via wage and training subsidy packages.
Apprenticeships are key to building a vibrant and successful workforce for the future. Wales is leading the way in this – but the ultimate success of any programme like this depends on the backing of the nation’s business owners and leaders. And for them, this is one of those rare win-win situations.
Matt Southall is MD of Acorn Recruitment