Lower level apprenticeships have the potential to greatly boost productivity, according to the head of apprenticeships at Barclay's.
The number of lower level apprenticeships has fallen markedly in recent years. In the four years to 2016/17, the number of intermediate apprenticeship starts (level 2) fell by 11 per cent, while advanced apprenticeship starts (level 3) fell by six per cent.
Meanwhile, the number of higher apprenticeship starts (level 4-7) increased by 269 per cent in the same period. The overall number of apprenticeship starts has fallen by four per cent – from 510,200 in 2012-13 to 491,300 in 2016-17.
Mike Thompson, head of apprenticeships at Barclays, said the banking giant’s own research showed that the biggest gains in productivity at the company came from one of the level 2 apprenticeships it offered, and the greatest net productivity gain from one of the level 2 apprenticeship schemes had the potential to boost output by £1.8 million. Across the business, each apprentice boosted productivity by £18,000 over a four year period.
'Ladder of opportunity'
Mr Thompson added: “I believe that apprenticeships should offer a ladder of opportunity for everyone. On a practical level, this means that we need to create pathways to higher skills and qualifications, but it’s also important to have lower level apprenticeships – such as level 2 and 3 – to allow for those who need help to get started in their chosen field of work.
“Level 2 qualifications play a crucial role in helping individuals who need to build core entry level skills, gain their maths and English qualifications or the vital work experience required for employment.
“However, I believe we should see them as a springboard for these individuals and there should always be the opportunity to move onto higher levels and progress further. Encouraging progression to higher apprenticeships will boost productivity, improve earnings potential and help plug the skills gaps in our economy. It’s a vital step in ensuring no one gets left behind and has the opportunity to develop skills and carve a rewarding career.”
Despite the fall in apprenticeship starts, Mr Thompson said he believes the apprenticeship levy is good for business and the UK economy, adding: “It offers an excellent chance for companies to invest in their workforce through hiring new staff, developing existing employees and shaping the skills of their workforce to their exact requirements.”