Is now the right time to hire an apprentice?  

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During May and June, over 5 million students in England will be taking their GCSE exams. Once they receive their results this summer, they’ll be considering what next steps to take for their careers. For some, this will mean starting an apprenticeship.

Apprenticeships remain a core part of the Government’s agenda, with a commitment to drive up apprenticeship starts to 3 million by the year 2020. This demand for vocational qualifications is likely to increase in anticipation of post-Brexit skills shortages.

It’s also been over a year since the introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy, which required employers with an annual pay bill of £3 million or more to invest in apprenticeship training. Alarmingly, new data analysis by The Open University has found that £1.28 billion of the £1.39 billion paid into the levy pot still hasn’t been accessed by UK employers.

Time is now running out to access this money – employers were given a 2-year window to ‘use or lose’ the levy pot, after which time the funds will be handed over to HMRC. If more employers don’t invest in work-based learning, over £1 billion will go to waste.

Along with the introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy, the rules around who can qualify to be an apprentice have changed too. Previously, funding wasn’t available for those over the age of 24 and only half of 19 to 24-year-olds could access it. The funding restrictions have now been relaxed, meaning employers can upskill their existing, older staff members who weren’t previously eligible for funded training.

 

What are the benefits of apprenticeships for my business?

Cost-effective training

Apprenticeships are a cost-effective way to train an employee from the ground up, whilst supporting the day-to-day running of your business. For employers with a pay bill of less than £3 million, the Government covers 90% of the apprentice’s training costs. If your apprentice is 16-18 years old, the Government provides grants which cover 100% of the training costs.

Upskilling your workforce

With no age funding restrictions in place, school-leavers aren’t the only ones to benefit. Companies can put their existing staff onto an apprenticeship and offer progression routes which are comparable to a Bachelor’s degree or beyond. Happily, the number of people taking up higher and advanced level apprenticeships has climbed steadily from 37% in 2011-12 to 47% in the last academic year.

Tailored to your business needs

For many childcare businesses, it can be hard to recruit the right person to fill a vacancy.

Hiring an apprentice enables businesses to train staff in the specific skills required for their workplace. You’ll be able to mould your apprentice from the beginning, as well as have input into their learning so that this feeds into key business objectives.

See a boost in productivity

There’s lots of evidence to suggest that apprentices can boost the productivity of your business. A study carried out for the Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr) found that each apprentice enables a productivity gain of more than £10,000 per year for their employer. In addition to this, companies with an established apprenticeship programme reported that productivity in the workplace had improved by a huge 76%.

 

What else must I consider?

Funding rules state that, as an employer, you must provide “off-the-job” training to your apprentice. The focus of this training is to teach new skills, rather than assessing existing ones, and must equate to at least 20% of the apprentice’s contracted working hours.

Additionally, whilst there’s funding help to cover training costs, you must ensure you pay the National Minimum Wage for apprentices for first 12 months of the course. After this point, the National Minimum Wage for the learner’s age group will apply.

If you were to take on a school leaver or a 19 to 24-year-old who is also a care leaver or on a local authority Education, Health and Care Plan, there’s an additional £1000 grant available.

 

How do I choose the right training provider?

It’s important to spend time researching which training provider will best meet your needs. Check their completion rates and see how they compare with national averages. For example, Parenta’s year to date overall completion rate for childcare apprenticeships is 76%. How does this compare to elsewhere? The national completion rate for apprenticeships is 66.2% and for childcare apprenticeships specifically, 67.9%.

As a childcare business, it’s important to choose a training provider who has specific knowledge and experience of the early years sector. Finding a company who understands the unique challenges of working in a childcare means they’ll be better placed to deliver a high-quality apprenticeship compared to a training provider without this specialism.

You should also check how the training will be tailored to meet the specific needs of the learner. For example, Parenta’s team of assessors all have a wealth of experience working in childcare. They provide tailored support for learners’ needs on a 1-2-1 basis and are available to contact throughout the apprentice’s course by phone or email.

 

What’s the verdict?

Whilst the focus is on driving up apprenticeship starts, now’s the perfect time for both non-levy and levy-paying employers to take advantage of the funding available for apprenticeship training. 

Apprenticeships aren’t just beneficial for school leavers, they’re also a great way for employers to upskill the existing workforce and plan for skills gaps in the future. They’re a valuable commodity for your business, offering both a cost-effective method of training staff and a sure-fire way to boost overall productivity.  

Did you know we have a team who specialise in helping you find your ideal childcare or business administration apprentice, at no cost to you? All we ask is that we provide the training. Contact our recruitment team now on recruiter@parenta.com or call 0800 002 9242 and press option 3.

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