employees at work discussing
11 March 2021

The benefits of apprenticeships and what this means for your HR team

Apprenticeships can help organisations create a loyal, motivated workforce, but where should HR start if it wants to take on apprentices?


Maryam Munir

Maryam Munir

Maryam Munir worked as a content marketing writer at Ciphr from 2019 to 2021, specialising in topics related to HR systems, recruitment, payroll software, and learning and development.


Career development Employee engagement Learning and development


Apprenticeships can help organisations create a loyal, motivated workforce, but where should HR start if it wants to take on apprentices?

In March 2021, Rishi Sunak announced that the apprenticeship hiring incentive in England will be extended to September 2021, and the payment will be doubled to £3,000 – encouraging organisations to take on more apprentices. A new £7m ‘flexi-job’ apprenticeship programme in England was also announced, enabling apprentices to work with a number of employers in one sector, while an additional £126m will be going towards 40,000 more traineeships for 16–24-year-olds.

This announcement shows many of us that the government wants to see an increase in the number of apprenticeships and traineeships. Figures from the Department for Education showed the number of apprenticeship starts between March and May 2020 dropped by 50% compared to the same period last year. For organisations, the pandemic has meant staff have had to be furloughed or made redundant – 36% of apprentices were furloughed over 2020, 8% were made redundant and 17% had their off-the-job learning suspended – however, organisations need to go back to taking on more apprentices if they want to thrive and grow.

From having a more productive workforce to being able to grow talent, organisations can benefit in many ways from providing apprenticeships. Here, Ciphr shares some of the ways that apprenticeships can benefit your organisation and explains what this means for your HR team.


Securing fresh talent

Ciphr’s director of people and services, Claire Williams, says: “Apprenticeships are a great route to bring in new talent to your organisation. We find that our apprentices are always incredibly keen to learn, flexible in their approach, and – as many of them join straight from school – you can start from scratch when setting expectations around the company’s values, culture and behaviours and how they can contribute to these.”

However, to secure the best talent, Williams says your organisations should invest in working with the best apprenticeship provider.

“If you can find a good quality provider that you can truly partner with, then they will work with you to ensure that they match the right candidates, with the right apprenticeship schemes, and the right role to ensure that you get best possible talent. That will hopefully result in a valued employee that stays with the company for several years, and that personally experience high job satisfaction and progression during their time with you.”


Close the skills gap

When speaking to HR Magazine, Jennifer Locklear, chief people officer at ConnectWise, said: “In spite of the unpredictable employment market, there still exists a skills gap in certain roles, technology and cybersecurity, to name a couple.”

By taking on apprentices who are eager to learn and gain new skills, and who can be trained up for a specific role, you can help your organisation close the skills gap and move forward.

Apprentices can also offer a fresh perspective and new ideas as a result of their age, which your organisation can use to succeed against others.


Build a loyal workforce

A majority of apprentices are young school or college leavers, who want to grow within an organisation and climb the career ladder. As a result, taking on apprentices means your organisation can benefit from a dedicated, loyal workforce of employees who want to stay at the company and progress.

For HR, this means you must provide opportunities for career progression for all staff including apprentices. Without these opportunities for progression, apprentices may be likely to leave.

Career progression for apprentices also means your HR team can save on hiring costs – apprentices can be recruited into new positions, saving you from having to recruit externally.


How can HR take on more apprentices?

In order to experience the benefits of taking on apprentices, HR teams first need to invest in apprenticeships and early careers programmes.

Williams says: “At Ciphr, we invest heavily in our early careers programmes and have a fantastic track record for high levels of lateral moves and internal promotions. Apprentices are at the core of these programmes and generally experience rapid career progression at their start of their Ciphr journey.”

By investing in apprenticeships, organisations can receive value back through an engaged, motivated, and productive workforce.

However, when investing in apprenticeships, HR teams must make sure that equal opportunities are available to young people from all types of backgrounds.

BAME apprentices in the 16- to 18-year-old group made up just 7.8% of new apprentice starts in 2018/19, down from 8.6% the year before, and of all apprenticeship starts in 2019/20, only 13.3% were BAME.

HR teams must ensure that apprenticeship opportunities are available to everyone – by posting about apprenticeship opportunities on social media channels, you are more likely to reach a diverse group of young people who are keen to work for your organisation.

If you want both your apprentices and employers to experience the full benefits of apprenticeships, you must also make sure the apprenticeships you’re providing are adequate enough to satisfy everyone taking part.

In its annual report for 2019-20, Ofsted called apprenticeships the “weakest” area of the UK’s further education provision, with one in 10 providers being judged as ‘inadequate’ as a result of “weak leadership and a lack of co-development of the curriculum with employers”.

Your HR team must therefore work closely with apprenticeship providers to ensure that your organisation satisfies apprentices’ needs and to make sure that apprentices are learning and thriving at your organisation.