Degree apprenticeships: How to make them part of your skills gap solution

As we wait for National Apprenticeship Week to start, David Willett tells us why degree apprenticeships could be the solution to your skills gap.

The apprenticeship levy comes into force next month and it is now widely accepted that degree apprenticeship programmes can make a positive contribution to achieving business objectives – by delivering improvements in operational performance, business efficiency and positively impacting the bottom line. 

But did you know that setting up apprenticeship programmes can be a key part of your organisation’s skills gap solution, by helping to address both current and projected future skills needs within your organisation?

An important aspect of apprenticeships is that they can be used to put some of the required skills in place to drive your organisation forward – not just to meet your organisation’s skills needs today, but further ahead into the future too.

To be able to do this though, you first need to analyse your business strategy and identify what skills your organisation will need to help it achieve its objectives.

A skills audit
The important first step in the process is to undertake a thorough skills audit. This will not only enable you to identify and catalogue the skills your current employees have, but will also make it possible for you to match existing skills against the business strategy.

Then you can see where there are currently skills gaps and also identify where there will be potentially costly skills gaps in the future, if no suitable action is taken beforehand.

From here it is much easier to identify suitable degree apprenticeship programmes that will develop talented individuals with the specific skills that your organisation needs in order to succeed in the future.

Degree apprenticeships offer aspiring young individuals a compelling opportunity to secure an internationally recognised degree while they develop new work-based skills and competencies

Using degree apprentice programmes as part of your organisation’s skills gap solution can also deliver other valuable benefits too.

Earlier talent acquisition
Degree apprenticeships are suitable for all ages and a great opportunity to develop existing staff. In fact, they are increasingly being seen as a great way to upskill the existing workforce of UK plc. Using them to secure talent at an earlier age is also advantageous for a few other reasons:

  • They are likely to be more adaptable and mouldable: as recruits onto a degree apprenticeship programme will be younger and less likely to have shaped strong opinions regarding specific ways of working.
  • Lower employment costs: new recruits joining your organisation to undertake a degree apprenticeship programme will not command the same starting salary as a graduate from university.

Degree apprenticeships offer aspiring young individuals a compelling opportunity to secure an internationally recognised degree while they develop new work-based skills and competencies. And all this without incurring any of the costs associated with studying for a degree through the traditional university route.

As a result, offering degree apprenticeships is a powerful talent attraction tool. Another reason why you should also consider offering degree apprenticeships to existing staff is to ensure you don’t lose talent that might otherwise go elsewhere.

Improved talent retention
There is strong evidence that suggests individuals who have progressed through an organisation’s integrated, work-based apprenticeship programmes typically stay with that organisation longer than graduate recruits. 

The reasons for this are numerous, but include a greater sense of employee loyalty, motivation and job satisfaction gained as a result of having been supported and personally developed through the duration of the apprenticeship programme. 

Apprenticeship programmes can also be used as part of a redeployment programme, following an organisational restructure, providing another way to help retain your brightest talent.

The work-readiness of degree apprentices
Many employers criticise the work-readiness of university graduates, citing how long it takes them to get the experience and understanding of work before they are able to make a full contribution to the organisation. 

In stark contrast, newly-qualified degree apprentices will already be completely familiar with how your business works and will also have been making a positive contribution to the organisation while they were on their apprenticeship. So, there should be no question at all that these individuals will be fully work-ready when they transition to full-time roles within the organisation.

Introducing apprenticeships, particularly if the apprentices are new to your organisation, can also benefit junior line managers. Through supporting the apprentices, junior managers are provided with an excellent opportunity to develop their managerial and mentoring skills, and gain valuable line-management experience.

Apprenticeships offer a great opportunity to improve performance and productivity, as well as a whole host of other valuable benefits, but to get the most out of them it’s important to ensure they are implemented strategically and fully integrated into the organisation’s business strategy.

You can download ‘Maximising apprenticeships for improved performance and results ‘, a free guide for employers produced by The Open University, here.

 

About the author

David Willett is Head of Propositions at The Open University

Jonathan.Kennard

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