Employers, parents and young people are starting to embrace apprenticeships, and companies are predicting a surge in apprentices over the next few years, according to new research released by accountancy firm Grant Thornton and City and Guilds today.
This outlook is in contrast with the steep fall in the number of new apprentices revealed by government figures last month, which showed a 35 per cent fall in starts in November, compared with the same period in 2016.
Today's study of the attitudes of 500 UK employers who pay the apprenticeship levy reveals that half of those employers plan to recruit more apprentices than they do now in the next five years. Over three-quarters say the apprenticeship levy has encouraged them to hire more apprentices than they would have done otherwise, according to the research, released to mark the start of National Apprenticeship Week.
The majority of employers, 77 per cent, agreed with positive statements about the levy – with 30 per cent saying it will result in an increase in apprenticeship quality, 25 per cent saying it is a great way to get employers to pay for training and 22 per cent saying the levy gives employers more control.
Commenting on the findings, Kirstie Donnelly MBE, managing director of City and Guilds, said: “In recent months we have seen numerous press reports regarding drops in apprenticeship starts since the introduction of the levy. However, we can see from this research that the majority of employers now say that the levy has actually encouraged them to recruit more apprentices than they otherwise would have done and that half intend to hire even more in the next five years."
She added: “I believe that we will see this trend continue in the coming years as employers become more knowledgeable about how to utilise their levy to meet their skills needs, and confidence amongst young people and parents continues to grow."
New interest in apprenticeships
The report on changing attitudes to apprenticeships also highlights the way in which parents and young people are starting to view them. As part of the study, research was conducted last month by One Poll, involving 1,000 people aged 16-25 and 1,000 parents, which shows that more than three-quarters of parents and young people think that apprenticeships offer good career prospects.
Almost half (42 per cent) of young people think apprenticeships and university degrees have the same value, while 45 per cent of parents think a university degree delivers less value than it used to, according to the research.
Some 60 per cent of young people think that you do not need to go to university to get a well-paid job and half (51 per cent) of 16-25-year-olds who are currently at university do not believe their degree guarantees them a well-paid job.
Keely Woodley, partner and head of Grant Thornton’s human capital practice, said: “This changing attitude represents an evolution in the expectations of young people and parents when it comes to learning beyond school. Add in high university tuition fees and rising living costs and it becomes clear why those looking at higher education options are increasingly seeing apprenticeships and other earn-as-you-learn routes as a positive route into a successful career."
She added: “For employers, navigating the apprenticeship levy and the wider changes to the apprenticeship system is challenging, but they should be exploring opportunities to think laterally about talent development approaches. Employers can use apprenticeships to both tap into new talent pools and to upskill existing people."