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People, Skills & Talent

Apprenticeships: What are you waiting for?

Sharon McDonnell, Business Advisor on the People, Skills and Talent Team, explores the many ways in which apprenticeships can help to shape, grow and retain your workforce

I have worked in the apprenticeship arena for over a decade, yet never before, I believe, have apprenticeships been this good.

Skills shortages are rising, with a recent report citing 63% of UK organisations are struggling to find staff equipped with the skills they need. In my role as a business advisor on the People Skills and Talent team at GC Business Growth Hub it’s a concern I hear daily from SME employers. Businesses stand or fall on the quality of their people – and if your business can’t recruit enough staff with the right level of skills and experience, that’s a problem.

One way to address this problem is apprenticeships. Apprenticeships are a great way to grow an engaged and committed workforce, helping you to ensure the skills that you need stay in your business.

So how can you can use apprenticeship funding to upskill and develop your workforce? For this I like to “park” the term apprenticeship and talk directly to employers about qualifications. Apprenticeship qualifications range from level 2 up to degree (level 6) and masters (level 7) equivalents, with no age restrictions or education celling.  Many of these are linked to professional registration, like chartered management, marketing or project management.

The good news is that the government will fund 95% of the cost, requiring the employer to only co invest the remining 5%. For example, a team leader level 3 apprenticeship attracts a full cost of £4,500 plus VAT for a 12 month programme. The government will fund 95%, requiring the business to only fund £225 plus VAT.  And with the new Apprenticeship matching Service  that was introduced last year there is the opportunity to have your employees apprenticeship fully funded.


Choosing the right training provider is vital. Each provider will take a slightly different approach: some will deliver via classroom learning; some online; others will incorporate a blended learning approach. Researching their customer and learner satisfaction rates, together with their achievement rates, will give you a good indication as to whether they are right for your business.

The SEDA project is an impartial service funded via Greater Manchester Combined Authority to give employers answers to these questions. As part of this service an advisor will visit your business and complete a workforce development review helping you identify apprenticeship qualifications that would add value. They can also keep you up to date on grants and talk to you about the Levy Matching Service.

You can expand your workforce through recruitment of new staff members in the form of apprentices. According to the National Apprenticeship Service, 72% of employers reported improved productivity from taking on a young apprentice. Other benefits include an increase in staff morale, higher staff retention rates, and 86% of those surveyed said that apprentices helped to developed relevant skills for their organisation to plug skills gaps.

With so many positives, I still encounter employers who are reluctant to recruit in this way, citing a poor experience many years ago. I would urge businesses to think again, thinking more widely about how an apprentice could benefit the business.


As an employer your responsibility is firstly to select the right training provider. How have you communicated your decision to recruit to your wider workforce and do they understand the role that they will play to support the apprentice? Have you adapted your interview style? What does your onboarding process look like?

All questions you need to reflect on if you have had a poor experience its no coincidence that those who have a fantastic result recruiting and developing their future talent pool through young apprentices have a robust recruitment and onboarding strategy in place. Reflect, change, and adapt. If you need any advice guidance and support please contact an advisor  on the People Skills and Talent team at GC Business Growth Hub. We would be more than happy to help you develop an apprentice recruitment strategy.

Reflect, change, and adapt.

If you need any advice, guidance and support, please contact GC Business Growth Hub.

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