As the eighth National Apprenticeship Week 2015 takes place, apprenticeships ambassador and entrepreneur, Jason Holt CBE highlights the opportunity for SMEs
Each year as National Apprenticeship Week draws round, it provides us with the perfect opportunity to take stock of the positive impact apprenticeships and traineeships have on individuals, businesses and the wider economy.
The overarching theme this year is a challenge for us to all to think about how much we really know about apprenticeships. For instance, did you know that businesses report an average increase in productivity by £214 a week when they hire apprentices? Or that apprenticeships were estimated to have contributed £34 billion to the UK economy in 2014?
Throughout the week, hundreds of businesses, schools, colleges and training organisations will be holding events and hosting activities, while employers are being encouraged to pledge new apprenticeship and traineeship vacancies via an online Pledgeometer.
Another key focus for National Apprenticeship Week 2015 is to highlight specifically the array of benefits that small businesses can enjoy by taking on an apprentice. Indeed, almost nine in 10 employers who had hoped for benefits as a result of hiring an apprentice reported they have received them. These benefits include improved skills levels, service, morale and productivity.
One such SME advocating apprenticeships is Ginger Nut Media, who won Newcomer of the Year at the 2014 National Apprenticeship Awards. The digital marketing firm, which launched in 2011, has built itself up from a one man band to a 32 strong team, which includes a number of apprentices.
The company invested in apprenticeships as it saw the programme as a steady way to grow and a clear route to a sustainable future for the company and its employees. Ginger Nut’s apprentices have now established themselves as the future of the company and are already committing to long-term projects. Another key benefit that Ginger Nut cites is that through offering apprenticeships it has been able to diversify its business and move into new markets, such as design and other advertising models.
During National Apprenticeship Week, we also want to convey that offering apprenticeships is easier than some small business might think and to remind them of the support available to take on an apprentice.
For example, as well as dedicated SME employer teams within the National Apprenticeship Service, there is also financial assistance available in the form of the Apprenticeship Grant for Employers 16 to 24.
The AGE 16 to 24 grant, which since inception has enabled more than 106,000 extra young people to start an apprenticeship, was recently extended until the end of the year. Now any company with under 50 employees, who are new to apprenticeships or haven’t enrolled a new recruit or existing employee into an apprenticeship programme in the previous 12 months, could be eligible. They could receive up to five grants of £1,500 to help cover the cost of taking on an apprentice.
Two million apprenticeships have been started since 2010, with campaigns like National Apprenticeship Week helping to drive up numbers and increase awareness. And so I would encourage employers of all shapes and sizes to get behind National Apprenticeship Week 2015 to make it the biggest and best yet.
To find out how to get involved in National Apprenticeship Week visit www.gov.uk/naw2015.