Paid Content

SME Owners Reveal What They’ve Gained From Joining 'The Skills Revolution'

From boosting innovation to building a highly skilled workforce, businesses of all sizes are enjoying the benefits of government training and employment schemes.
Paid post from the Department for Education
What's this?

This content was paid for by an advertiser. It was produced by our commercial team and did not involve HuffPost editorial staff.

SME owner with young trainees
10'000 Hours via Getty Images
SME owner with young trainees

Business owners are enjoying the benefits on offer having joined the Skills Revolution — an initiative that promotes apprenticeships, Skills Bootcamps, T Level industry placements, Multiply numeracy courses, and other training and employment schemes — which are designed to keep businesses moving and inspire the next generation of talent.

These training and employment schemes are appealing to small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) across a wide range of sectors from digital and health to construction and engineering. And, already (the Department for Education only launched the campaign in 2022), the programs are creating exciting opportunities for businesses and young people across the UK.

Here, employers explain what benefits they’re embracing through the schemes...

You get access to the best and brightest talent in the industry and they’ll have a fresh take on the way your business operates.

Attracting a new generation of recruits through apprenticeships, Higher Technical Qualifications (HTQs), and T Level industry placements means having a talent pipeline of bright, young, and committed learners focused on growing their knowledge and exploring all areas of a business.

Kim Slater drives the recruitment of apprentices at FD Works, a Bristol-based accountancy firm, where she started off as a digital marketing apprentice. It now has nine apprentices on board and Kim feels strongly that the apprenticeships are a core talent pipeline and an investment in the future of the business.

“We’re only a small company so the apprentices make up about 50% of our workforce,” Kim explains. “There’s only one person on the team who hasn’t done an apprenticeship previously so we’re big on it here!”

“What I’ve noticed about our apprentices is how keen they are to get involved in other sides of the business and alter their perspective. They’ve not just got their heads down, focused on the work; they’re looking up and thinking about what’s happening around them.”

“We’ve got young apprentices, aged 19, 20, who are changing things operationally here,” says Kim.

“We’ve recently changed the structure of our teams because of an apprentice’s suggestion; we’ve got them creating data collection processes that are better for our clients and proving more efficient.”

Engineering workshop
SolStock via Getty Images
Engineering workshop

T Level industry placements can plug gaps in projects and address skill shortages in the workforce.

Having T Level students come in and contribute to live projects where teams need support has been a huge benefit to Midland-based construction companies Baily Garner and BAM Construct. The two businesses have partnered up to offer shared industry placements, allowing students to move from one to the other and extend their learning, gaining experience in both on-site and planning roles within the construction sector.

BAM’s education coordinator, Phil Eves, has found he can train his students in a way that also serves to fill knowledge gaps among existing staff — particularly useful in an industry where regulations and technologies change all the time.

“We’re getting so much from our T Level students. One of the first things I have them working on is the CCS audits (the construction industry’s universal auditing process); I’ve got 16-to-17-year-olds preparing to be audited by a third party — a quite lengthy process but a great basis for their learning and future in the industry. And the brilliant thing is, it helps the site team immensely, as the others come to rely on them for their up-to-date knowledge.”

Kirsty Miles, the HR manager at Baily Garner, explains that perceived skill shortages within the organisation inform its recruitment process for training and employment schemes.

“We have Careers Assessment days for hiring apprentices so we’ll go into those with an understanding of the specific areas of the business where there’s a skill need. So at the moment, for example, we have a bit of a skills shortage on the Building Surveying side, and we’ll look to bring in skills in that area.”

Having new learners in the team can inspire and motivate existing employees to build upon their skills.

“I try to get the young learners on all the new tech projects that will be leading the way in the future here at BAM,” says Phil, “like, with the air source heat pumps that we’re installing on a lot of the new builds. This is an investment in the company’s future and where the industry will be heading.”

A great added benefit of this is the piqued interest among long-term employees for upskilling, he adds.

“I’ve noticed that when the guys who’ve been here 30–40 years see what [the T Level students] are learning and doing on the job — things they can’t do — there’s an impetus for them to upskill. Without those young people being there, they just don’t really see why they would need to.”

A young trainee building surveyor with her colleague
sturti via Getty Images
A young trainee building surveyor with her colleague

The learning between student and mentor works both ways. Everyone benefits.

Opening doors for young people, providing them with skills and technical education and helping to guide their careers prove hugely rewarding for business owners, but what further sweetens the deal is seeing the two-way learning between mentor and student.

Luke Hardware, director at Progressive Roofing and Cladding, has seen this with its current T Level industry placement student Matthew Cassidy, who’s been with the company just under a year.

“Matthew has been spending time in each department but right now he’s in Quantity Surveying, which he’s showing a strong interest in. He’s working alongside James, our one and only quantity surveyor, who’s been finding it really useful to have the extra support. But also, he’s learning so much himself.

Matthew’s sharing a lot of new ideas and things he’s been learning at college, as well as his computer skills, which has been helping James get to a solution much more quickly and easily, so it’s really helping efficiencies.”

You can support and shape the future of your industry.

In addition to T Level industry placements, Luke’s company has committed to offering apprenticeships in the trade of cladding in the South West, providing an opportunity for young people in the region who are keen to embark on a trade career. It’s a great way of getting the company name out there, while also ensuring talented individuals can sustain a successful career in his industry.

“Up until September 2022, there wasn’t an apprenticeship available for this type of work, partly because ours is such a niche trade. There’s only about five cladding firms in the region (we’re one of them) so there isn’t a huge amount of employment opportunities or routes into the industry. Now we’ve actually created our own scheme. We’ve written and developed the standard, and are now recruiting nine apprentices under this new programme whereby they can be employed while training.”

“We’re not just future-proofing our business; we’re creating something that can be passed on to other cladding contractors, so benefiting the industry as a whole.”

Are you an employer looking to invest in skills through training and employment schemes? Apprenticeships, Higher Technical Qualifications, Skills Bootcamps, and T Level industry placements can help drive better business performance, boost workforce productivity, and keep your business moving. Visit here to find out more and see how you can ‘Join the Skills Revolution’.