Apprenticeships are on the rise. The past five years have seen a marked increase in the creation of apprenticeship schemes with greater government investment and more and more organisations wising up to the business benefits that apprentices can deliver. The past few years have also seen apprenticeships evolve with the introduction of Higher Apprenticeships; these offer the equivalent of a university degree, providing a work-based learning route into professions which have traditionally been the preserve of graduates.

Changing attitude, changing world of work

The growth of apprenticeships is also being fuelled by the changing attitudes of school leavers. Set against a backdrop of rising university fees, growing numbers of young people are realising the importance of gaining workplace experience and developing skills that improve their employability. Apprenticeships allow individuals to gain qualifications specific to the industry they want to pursue a career in while earning a salary.

While there has been much discussion of the benefit of apprenticeships to individuals, the business case for taking on an apprentice is less understood. This is the reason why AAT (The Association of Accounting Technicians) decided to commission Cebr to research the business benefits that apprentices can bring. By quantifying the net benefit to organisations once training costs and wages have been factored in, we are able to show that many businesses can expect to see a net financial gain from taking on an apprentice.

How can apprenticeships help your organisation?

In fact, our research has shown that apprentices delivered around £1.8 billion of net economic benefits to UK organisations last year. That’s a bottom line boost of more than £2,000 per apprentice. Crucially, this benefit can be seen while the apprentice is still in training. This point is really important, as I suspect many organisations fall in to the trap of thinking that taking on an apprentice means investing significant resource before seeing any real return.

Besides the financial gains, research by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) has shown that apprentices deliver a whole host of other business benefits. The BIS research from August 2013 found that a majority of organisations with apprenticeships reported improved product and service quality, enhanced productivity and increased morale and organisational reputation. And the really good news is that apprenticeships, while traditionally associated with professions such as hairdressing, plumbing and mechanical engineering, are now growing across all businesses in all sectors. Indeed the majority of apprentice starts today are in the service sector, which includes roles in areas such as finance, retail and leisure and health and social work. This year in the finance sector alone we have seen around 8,000 people starting apprentices, an increase of 44% since 2009.

Success at Danbro

Echoing our research, one of the companies we work with, Blackpool contractor accountancy and payroll specialist, Danbro has found apprentices to be a winning formula for its business. Over the last year, Danbro has taken on over ten apprentices who it hopes will be with the firm long into the future, becoming a key part of the business while developing their own careers. By taking on and training up apprentices, Danbro has been able to ensure its recruits develop the skills needed by its business and clients as well as instilling the values that lie at the heart of their organisation.

This year we’re encouraging businesses of all sizes and in all sectors to take on an apprentice and reap the rewards. Support is available and in many cases the cost of training is at least partly covered by Government, so there really is no better time for organisations to take the plunge and experience the benefits of apprentices for themselves.

Written by Jane Scott Paul, chief executive at AAT

Jane Scott Paul, chief executive at AAT

Jane Scott Paul OBE is the chief executive of the Association of Accounting Technicians, the UK’s leading qualification and membership body for accounting and finance staff.

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