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Apprenticeships: How Small Businesses Can Make The Most Of Opportunities

05/06/2017 11:58 BST | Updated 05/06/2017 11:58 BST

2017 to date has also been an incredibly important year for apprenticeships. By the end of May, all large employers in the UK - those with a pay bill of over £3 million each year - made their first payment into the new apprenticeship levy. The monies raised from this levy are designed to help fund the development and delivery of apprenticeships, aiming to improve the quality and quantity of those available.

The levy is seen as a key means to help deliver the Government target of three million apprenticeship starts by 2020, along with solving years of chronic underinvestment in skills.

Companies of all sizes can benefit from apprenticeship opportunities, and apprenticeships are mutually beneficial for employer and apprentice. For example, for apprentices that smaller companies may wish to bring in who are aged 19+, the Government will provide a 90 per cent funding contribution towards their training and the business will only be asked to contribute the remaining 10 per cent. The Government's contribution rises to 100 per cent of funding for 16-18 year olds. This means there is a huge incentive here for small businesses wishing to bring in apprentices at the start of their career, as there is no cost regarding activity directly related to their apprenticeship scheme - businesses will only need to pay their salary. The funds must only be used to pay for training and assessment.

Taking advantage of apprenticeship opportunities

One business that has successfully realised the effectiveness of bringing in an apprentice is Tiger Cardiff Ltd. They managed to fill a void in their finance team through the appointment of an apprentice, Olivia Evans, who was able to take opportunities to grow her knowledge and experience while learning her role on the job.

Director Kate Methuen-Ley told us: "Olivia is a huge asset to our business, and shows maturity beyond her years both professionally and personally. She's taken control of her role, growing and shaping it and undertaking a huge responsibility with both confidence and humility.

"One real benefit we have found is that apprentices are very receptive, motivated, and willing to learn new things about their chosen profession. For our business, having a dedicated finance team is critical towards ensuring we operate smoothly and efficiently, and Olivia has made a great contribution towards this."

Upskilling to increase staff loyalty

Apprenticeships are by no means just for new staff; instead they can be used to upskill existing employees, developing career improvement opportunities and greater retention. For example, if there is a need to develop an employee's financial skills and knowledge, there are apprenticeship schemes and qualifications available that can help with this.

When considering bringing in an apprentice, companies will first want to talk to other staff members to determine how best an apprentice can benefit the business. This will help provide a benchmark to help determine the success of the scheme, as well as making it easier to take on the right person.

Next, the right training provider will be needed to run the programme on behalf of the company. Companies should research registered providers in your sector, what they specialise in, and their credentials.

A strong apprenticeship scheme will potentially bring in the next generation of employees for a business. Ensure therefore that the recruitment of apprentices isn't done lightly or in haste, but instead identify those candidates who can become valuable assets.

To find out more about the new apprenticeship reforms, head to train.aat.org.uk/