29/11/2011 06:05 GMT | Updated 29/01/2012 05:12 GMT

We Need to Realise That Apprentices Are an Investment

I sit here writing this feeling a tad melancholy. "Why, Tim?" I hear you ask, (humour me this is my first post ;o). Well my beautiful 10-year-old daughter has just given me one of those daddy daughter looks which signifies that the joke I just tried to make was not funny. Actually she looks so pained I have to wonder if she is actually unwell.

I have no illusions about guest-starring at Jongleurs like some politicians I could mention but the moment does make me think back to a time when the jokes I told were hilarious. (They were I promise!) As I get older, and not necessarily wiser, time seems to be going so fast and I do wonder how my daughter grew up and gained such comedy discernment.

Memories of the past are often forgotten quite easily though and as the Mayor of London Boris Johnson's Apprenticeship Ambassador I hanker for the days when the tagline an apprentice was not solely synonymous with a TV programme or seen as a second tier route for those not able to make it through the 'normal' academic route. Even when I was growing up in the 80s the term 'Apprentice' was one of honour and great pride - a rite of passage after the investment from a master tradesman.

Since the coining of the phrase back in the 16th century the term has taken on several connotations and I am pleased to be part of the brilliant team of organisations like the National Apprenticeship Service and other forward-thinking individuals, ensuring that an apprentice is synonymous with hard-working, highly motivated people who simply seek a new way to learn a skills and trades and earn money while they are doing so.

But with the recent unemployment figures increasing it is more important than ever that we engage with organisations that could provide an apprentice place for a young person and not for altruistic reasons. A study carried out by the University of Warwick Institute for Employment Research (IER) demonstrated that Apprenticeships should be seen as an investment by employers, not a cost, and where the investment is nurtured, the returns to the employer are significant. The study showed that the costs of training are quickly recouped upon completion of the Apprenticeships. Other benefits include; retention within the company, understanding of company values, and progression to become managers and supervisors. The research by Populus (February 2008) demonstrates:

  • 77% of employers believe Apprenticeships make them more competitive
  • 76% say that Apprenticeships provide higher overall productivity
  • 80% feel that Apprenticeships reduce staff turnover

Working with the Mayor's team I have seen that in just over a year more than 40,000 new Apprenticeships have been created in London alone, which is double the number achieved in the previous year making London the fastest growing UK region for new Apprenticeship opportunities. The Mayor's campaign, in association with the National Apprenticeship Service, and his own push with top London employers and the GLA's own supply chain has been so successful that he has now upped his target on apprentices to hit the 100,000 mark by the end of 2012.

This is great news but we need the businesses to step forward and contact the National Apprenticeship Service at to say that they can support an apprentice to make this target a reality. So although the past has some comforting memories I am actually quite looking forward to the future - even if it doesn't include my daughter laughing at her father's jokes!