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How Apprenticeships are Going to Future Proof Your Business 

Apprenticeships are becoming an ever-popular route for people who don’t want to go through the traditional form of higher education that is university, as well as for people who are looking to learn new skills or train in a new field. The government aimed to have 3 million new apprenticeship starts by 2020 which is why they introduced the apprenticeship levy in April 2017 to help reach this goalThe reason for the sudden demand for apprenticeships is likely caused by the growing skills gap in the UK. 


Apprenticeships can help close the skills gaps and help future proof your business, here’s how: 

Loyalty Apprentices are more likely to stay at their company once they have completed their apprenticeship as by this point they will be fully embedded within your companyDepending on the apprentice they could stay at your company for many, many years to come, turning what is initially a relatively low-cost investment into a fully certified, loyal employee who has been developed from within your own company. This is backed up by the statistic that 1 in 5 companies have a former apprentice at board level. This will help reduce staff turnover due to the loyalty created between you and your apprentice, meaning you won’t have to hire further employees in the future, reducing costs and creating a steady workforce. Considering many graduates see entry level jobs as a way to earn some experience and then move on, if you want to plan for the future then apprenticeships might be the better option. 


Streamlined workforce With an apprentice you gain an employee who is eager to learn and work in an area they have never done so before. This allows you to mould the way they work to your preferencesThis allows you to essentially tailor them specifically to your business creating a streamlined workforce 


Lower Cost - For smaller businesses with smaller budgets, apprenticeships are an even better option to help keep costs down and get the most of their employees. Hiring an apprentice is considerably cheaper than someone who is already experienced and certified in a certain field as obviously they will be expecting higher pay. Instead you can hire an apprentice who is keen and willing to learn with the financial aid of grants from the government, keeping your costs at a minimum. This may be what allows a small business to survive and eventually grow at a faster rate than they otherwise would’ve been able to. 


Upskill current workers  Apprenticeships don’t just apply to new staff but also current staff that you want to upskill. There are apprenticeships from level 2 up to level 7, equivalent to a degree, so whatever the skill level of your current employees is, there will be an apprenticeship that suits them. Employees can either gain formal qualifications for the specialist area they’re already in, or they can be trained in an entirely new field which can help fill skills gaps within your workforce. On top of this, upskilling your workers will boost their motivation as you are investing in their development. This means productivity levels will increase by upskilling your workforce, creating a workforce that is not only becoming more capable, but also more productive. Investing in your employees also increases employee retention as you are helping them achieve their full potential, which they will repay with higher quality work. 


Apprenticeships Keep Knowledge up to date - The process of completing an undergraduate degree is one that involves studying a wide variety of material without ever putting that knowledge into practice. Some of the content of these materials may be looked at once and then forgotten about, which means it could take undergraduates a while to apply this knowledge in the workplace. Apprentices however are constantly applying their knowledge all the time which makes understanding and recalling this knowledge a lot easier. 

Manchester Metropolitan University have seen that some apprentices achieve better results than what they were expected to at their level, even outperforming their undergraduate colleagues. It’s suggested that it is the applied nature of apprenticeships that causes this, although more research is needed to back this up. 


You May Have Already Paid the Apprenticeship’s Costs - The apprenticeship levy means that you may have already paid the apprenticeship’s costs, here’s how the funding works.  

If you are a levy paying employer you pay a 0.5% tax on your entire payroll over £3 million, regardless of if this is spent on apprenticeship training or not. Therefore, if you spend this money on training, any apprenticeship costs will be paid for by this. If this is not enough to cover the full cost of the tuition fees however, you will need to cover 10% of the remainder, with the government covering the other 90%.  

If you are a non levy-paying employer with more than 50 employees, then you will pay 10% of any apprenticeship training costs. Alternatively if you have less than 50 employees you still have to pay that 10%, however if the apprentice is between 16 to 18 years old or between 19 to 24 years old with an Education, Health and Care plan (EHC), then their training is totally free. Further to this, there are also incentive payments of £1,000 for each apprentice you hire between the ages of 16 to 18 or 19 to 24 with an EHC plan. It is worth noting however that the government will only pay 90% up to the top of the relevant funding band. Any costs you have over this limit must be paid for by the business. That being said, the most you will have to pay to train an apprentice will be 10% of the total costs, assuming you stay withing your funding band. 


If you are interested in hiring an apprentice and would like to learn more, please feel free to contact us here at Skills for Growth – SME support for a free consultation. We have an Apprenticeship specialist, Suzanne McNicholas who can guide you through how an apprentice can help your business growth, showcase the financial gains for recruiting apprentices, introduce you to the funding available for all ages and help you with local authority connections. 

To find out more, talk to Suzanne and the team by calling 0161 237 4444, or contact 


The Growth Company is an award-winning, not-for-profit social enterprise with a mission to enable growth, create jobs and improve lives. We provide individuals and businesses with a wide range of services that improve employment, skills, investment and enterprise for the benefit of all, and have been working in the Greater Manchester city region for more than 30 years. 

This project receives funding from the European Social Fund as part of the 2014-2020 European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme in England.  

The Department for Work and Pensions is the Managing Authority for the England European Social Fund programme.  

Established by the European Union, the European Social Fund helps local areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects which will support skills development, employment and job creation, social inclusion and local community regenerations. For more information visit 

About the author

Suzanne McNicholas

As Apprenticeship Specialist for Skills for Growth - SME Support, Suzanne McNicholas works with a wide variety of businesses and individuals, helping them to better understand apprenticeships as a whole, and to find the right training and providers to suit every individual's needs.