The Managing Director of City & Guilds believes that the skills gap in UK businesses could be addressed if employers realise the full benefits of apprenticeships.
Kirstie Donnelly’s comments follow the publication of the findings from City and Guilds Skills shortage Nation survey which polled 500 senior decision makers from a range of organisations to ask them about their skills and recruitment needs and gauge their opinions about the impending changes to the apprenticeship system and likely impact upon their organisations.
Kirstie Donnelly MBE Managing Director of City & Guilds said: “As our research highlights apprenticeships are currently a huge area of untapped potential - if their benefits could be fully realised by employers, they would help fill many of the skills gaps that businesses across the country are facing. If freedom of movement is restricted post Brexit, skills self-sufficiency will become increasingly important for the UK so it’s the perfect time for employers to embrace the new apprenticeship system which now benefits from unequivocal Government support.”
The findings highlighted that 33% of UK employers who will be eligible to pay the new apprenticeship levy from this April are still not aware of its existence.
It also uncovered a lack of understanding about the way the levy could be used to train existing staff and the wide range of jobs that apprenticeships could potentially be used to fill.
For example just 18% realised that apprenticeships could be used for caring, leisure and other services jobs despite this being a sector where apprentices would be particularly well placed to fill jobs. Only 19% stated that they believed apprenticeships could be used to train managers and leaders, regardless of the fact that this was noted as the most difficult type of job to fill. Suggesting many didn’t realise that they could use their levy to train current staff with management potential.
“The lack of awareness about the new apprenticeship system among our respondents is a cause for concern and shows that we still have a hill to climb in convincing people about the benefits apprentices can bring to business. However, those that do know about the levy are saying it is a great way for employers to pay for training, so there is clearly understanding and appreciation of apprenticeships out there. With just two months to go until the levy begins, it’s vital that everyone in the skills sector and Government gets out there and communicates with these less enlightened businesses to help them see the huge potential benefits apprenticeships can bring.”
Despite the lack of knowledge amongst employers many of the findings were extremely encouraging. 31% of the business leaders said that they intend to increase the number of apprentices that they recruit thanks to the levy and opinions towards the levy were overwhelmingly positive. 47% felt that the levy was a great way to get employers to pay for training, 43% felt that it gave employers more control over the system and 34% felt that it would increase quality.
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