COMMENT: Apprenticeships have never been so easy (and cost friendly!) to access

Posted on: 25th Apr 2024

Sorcha Murphy, Business Development Manager at Ignite Training, discusses the significance of the Government’s positive commitment to apprenticeships and training

Meteorologically, it doesn’t especially feel like spring has quite sprung yet.

But the changing landscape of modern-day apprenticeships has without doubt blossomed following the Government’s announcement of its major package of reforms in support of vocational qualifications.

It’s a commitment which will create up to 20,000 more apprenticeships for people aged 21 or younger and save small businesses in the UK approximately £150million each year via fully funded training.

In March, non-levy-paying employers – and levy-paying employers without sufficient funds – were required to pay five per cent of training and assessment costs for all apprentices. This can vary between £350 and £600, depending on the course.

As of April 1, this requirement has been scrapped with the Government now paying the full training cost for apprentices aged 21 or younger, regardless if they’re a new starter or existing employee.

Significant changes to the apprenticeship levy have been introduced too, with large businesses now able to share up to 50 per cent of their unspent funds with other employers so they can invest in new talent and skills.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak says the move will “unlock a tidal wave” of opportunity for young people – and he isn’t wrong.

The challenge now is helping SMEs who may never have previously considered hiring an apprentice or enrolling an existing employee onto a course to understand their true value.

As a registered training provider, we’re fully aware how apprentices bring new skills and qualities to businesses and that they help boost output and support staff retention.

But outside our bubble, many still associate apprenticeships with roles which only serve particular careers. And it’s heavily misunderstood that apprenticeships can be studied by people at all stages of their careers with qualifications delivered right up to the equivalent of a master’s degree.

Translating this knowledge to the people who can directly benefit from the Government’s investment into apprenticeships will determine how successful the scheme is.

It goes without saying apprenticeships have undergone a significant period of change in recent years – and especially since Ignite was founded exactly 25 years ago.

One barrier employers faced when considering hiring an apprentice was the time which had to be committed by law to a learner’s personal development through off-the-job training.

Previously, 20 per cent of an apprentice’s working hours had to be dedicated to establishing the skills, knowledge and behaviours needed to pass an end-point assessment. Now, it’s been cut to six hours per week which for an employer creates far better flexibility.

The other point I’m always keen to stress – and I’ve mentioned it briefly in this column already – is not all apprentices have to be new members of staff. Apprenticeships are just as effective for existing staff, who will feel valued by having the opportunity to broaden their skills.

The bottom line is apprenticeships help invest in people’s development, boost retention and fill skills gaps in businesses by providing tailored education to employees in a way which is practical and manageable for them.

Sorcha Murphy, Business Development Manager at Ignite Training.

About Ignite Training

Established in 1999, Ignite’s primary aim is to actively inspire people, and to help create a sense of achievement for everyone. Based in Oxford and operating nationally, we provide a portfolio of training and services to individuals, schools and the sports industry, ranging from weekly clubs for tots to adult courses and apprenticeships.

About Ignite Training