Jane Scott Paul OBE: Want some of the £1.8bn of UK economic benefits that apprentices create?

The CEO of the Association of Accounting Technicians explains how apprentices can help business

This year National Apprenticeship Week is, more than ever, a time for celebration. Take-up of apprenticeship schemes has grown sharply over the past five years and more and more organisations are reaping the rewards that apprentices can bring to the workplace, boosting business and fuelling growth.

But despite this positive news, there are still many businesses that are currently missing out on the benefits that apprentices can provide. This is particularly the case in smaller businesses, which I suspect is due to the fact that many fall in to the trap of thinking that taking on an apprentice means committing significant upfront investment before seeing any return.

With this in mind, AAT has conducted research in association with Cebr quantifying the net benefit delivered by apprentices to business whilst still in training. By doing so, we’re hoping to highlight that, even before an apprentice is fully qualified; many employers will see economic benefits over and above wage and training costs. 

Our research showed that last year, apprentices delivered around £1.8bn of net economic benefits to UK organisations. It also revealed that individual organisations taking on an apprentice can expect to see, on average, a bottom-line boost of more than £2,000 once wage and training costs have been factored in.  

This is due to the fact that in many sectors apprentices are able to closely match the output of a qualified member of staff before they are fully trained. It is also due to the range of government subsidies available to businesses. In addition, by taking on and training up an apprentice, you can ensure they develop the skills your business needs as well as instilling the values that lie at the heart of your organisation.

Hiring an apprentice has also been shown to bring benefits beyond financial gains, such as improved staff morale, staff retention and organisational image. Indeed, research by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills from August 2013 found that a majority of organisations with apprenticeships reported that apprentices have helped improve product and service quality as well as boosting productivity and increasing their ability to attract good staff.

Working in the finance sector, I have seen how apprenticeships have evolved over time and how they can now benefit businesses in any sector. Despite a common belief that apprenticeships relate mainly to manual work, the majority of apprentice starts today are in the service sector.

Last year there were around 8,000 individuals starting apprentices in the finance sector, an increase of 44% since 2009. In addition to this, the introduction of higher apprenticeships means that trainees are now able to develop specific and highly valued skills to degree level. 

The business benefits of apprenticeships are clear.

That’s why on this National Apprenticeship Week I’m urging organisations of all sizes and sectors across the UK to be kind to their bottom line and take on an apprentice.

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

 

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